Sulawesi quake: French rescuers search for bodies amid debris

Sulawesi quake: French rescuers search for bodies amid debris

The confirmed death toll from the devastating natural disaster and tsunami on Sulawesi island neared 2,000 on Monday, but thousands more remained unaccounted for and officials have said search teams planned to stop looking for victims later this week.

The official death toll from the September 28 disaster rose to 1,763.

No one knows how many people were dragged to their deaths when the quake triggered soil liquefaction, a phenomenon that turns the ground into a roiling quagmire.

The Aid or access is still an obstacle to reach the stricken communities on Indonesian island of Sulawesi, UN aid agencies said on Friday.

Rescuers picking through the grim aftermath of Indonesia's quake-tsunami issued a fresh public health warning Saturday as more decaying corpses were unearthed from beneath the ruined city of Palu.

"Evacuation stops on October 11", the national disaster mitigation agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told a news briefing, using an Indonesian word that applies to the search and retrieval of both living and dead people.

Across the city, nine schools were destroyed, 22 teachers were killed and 14 were missing, the disaster agency said, adding that 140 tents had been set up for classes.

"They are in great need because the road is cut off and it's accessible only by air", Second Lieutenant Reinaldo Apri said after piloting a helicopter to rugged Lindu district, some 40 kilometres south of Palu.

The quake triggered tsunami waves that reached six meters.

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The most intact structure in the area was a battered two-storey house, pitched over at almost 45 degrees with one side buried and a blue vehicle in the auto port.

"Most of the bodies we have found are not intact, and that poses a danger for the rescuers".

National disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said 11 transport aircraft have been pledged, including two each from Singapore, South Korea, the United Kingdom and Malaysia, and one from India.

Indonesia had been reluctant to accept outside help at first but as the scale of the disaster became clear, the government agreed to allow in foreign aid.

In a rare move, Indonesia's government has appealed for worldwide help to cope with the tragedy unfolding on Sulawesi island.

He provided the updated figure Saturday at a news conference in Jakarta. He said security will be necessary for economic activity to resume.

The lives of many villagers at the epicentre of a quake were spared because they had been terrified by a smaller tremor that hit earlier and had run outside.

Thousands of people living in tents and shelters in the Indonesian city hit by a powerful natural disaster and tsunami are facing an uncertain future, unsure when they will be able to rebuild.

But search efforts are expected to end on Thursday. The military planes are also being used to evacuate injured people and other survivors from Palu, the biggest city in the earthquake-hit region. Taiwan's Tzu Chi Foundation sent a 10-person team consisting of doctors and nurses from Jakarta with more to arrive later. The archipelago sees frequent earthquakes and occasional tsunami. The death toll has topped 1500. Relief aid started arriving in the more remote areas of Sulawesi Island.

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