Sulawesi quake: French rescuers search for bodies amid debris

Earthquake survivors scuffle to get live chickens being distributed from a police truck outside a makeshift camp in Palu

A spokesman for the Joint Task Force for Central Sulawesi province said a total of 2,549 people were still in hospitals for medical treatment after the disasters hit the province on September 28, reports Xinhua news agency.

A week after a major natural disaster brought devastation to Indonesia's Sulawesi island, Ichsan Hidayat told how the bodies of his sister and her 43-day-old daughter were found under a sea of mud and debris, the mother clutching her baby to her chest.

There are fears that vast numbers of decomposing bodies could be buried beneath Petobo and Balaroa - two areas virtually wiped off the map - and authorities have warned survivors to steer clear as they brace for more macabre discoveries.

Rescuers who recovered the bodies told Hidayat his sister was found holding Aisah close. To help them, $15 million has already been released from the UN's Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). This is also a health concern for the public.

Sergeant Syafaruddin, from an army unit in Makassar south of Palu, asked for a body bag to be brought to a spot near where the remnants of an Islamic school now stands.

"We pray for the ones who have died and for those yet to be found", the imam said.

"There are no survivors here".

Wiranto, who uses one name, said heavy equipment cannot operate in such areas because they could potentially sink in the soft mud.

At another spot, a digger is called to turn over the devastated remains of a home. "My soul wouldn't rest", he said by a mass grave atop a hill overlooking Palu's bay as the sun set, where he had come to offer prayers.

Search teams are finding more bodies as they work through the devastation left by the Indonesian natural disaster, while worldwide aid crews have arrived to offer assistance.




"There were supplies but these were looted".

Under the rubble are at least one hundred and fifty people.

In other areas, electricity has been restored and markets have reopened. However, we are not letting customers inside for safety reasons.

He said he was out at the time but his family escaped by wading through chest-high water to a neighbour's three-storey building.

Jono Oge was particularly hard hit by liquefaction.

"Our Hercules was one of the first two foreign aircraft to deliver aid to Palu and Indonesian soldiers cheered as we offloaded the supplies yesterday".

The agency, which earlier Thursday says the death toll was 1,424, updated the number of dead to 1,558 on Twitter later the same day.

Indonesia's top security minister says the government is considering turning some areas of disaster-stricken Sulawesi island into mass graves. But the way is now open and aid is trickling in to the area that rescue workers feared had been obliterated. Several other nations have also sent planeloads of aid.

"The natural disaster and tsunami effectively cut off much of Palu and Donggala for several days due to landslides and damage to infrastructure, and has created significant logistical and access challenges", UN Resident Coordinator in Indonesia, Ms Anita Nirody, said.

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