Sulawesi quake: French rescuers search for bodies amid debris

Sulawesi quake: French rescuers search for bodies amid debris

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

As the sun set, a mass prayer ceremony was held by Palu's seafront that was scoured by the tsunami.

The 7.5-magnitude quake struck just off the central island of Sulawesi at 18:03 (10:03) on Friday at a depth of 10km (6.2 miles), setting off a tsunami that soon after engulfed Palu with waves of up to 6m.

"They erupted in cheers and gave a thumbs-up sign before we took off", Natapu said.

The official death toll has risen to 1,763 but bodies are still being recovered, at least 34 in one place alone on Saturday and more on Sunday.

Most of the dead have been found in Palu.

Eight victims in black body bags of the national search and rescue agency were arranged in a row in the crumpled Palu neighborhood of Balaroa, destined for a mass grave.

Hercules planes carrying tons of donations from Australia and the United States reached Palu yesterday morning, as did a plane chartered by Save the Children and another carrying a South African medical team.

Philip Besson, a member of the French organization Pompiers de l'urgence, said the team "detected the presence of a victim" in the wreckage of the Mercure Hotel but wasn't able to say if the person is conscious.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman of Indonesia's Mitigation and Disaster Agency (BNPB), holds a second news conference to brief reporters, September 29, 2018.

A floating hospital run by the Indonesian navy and docked in Palu port has already assisted with the delivery of a baby, local media reported.

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Despite that, Allibert said it had been hard to get permits for Sulawesi.

"The search for the victims is expected to be completed on Thursday", an official said.

Authorities have yet to conduct a tally of casualties in Sirenja and the other districts near the epicenter north of Palu, but Lakuaci estimated dozens of people had been killed in the area.

"I'd feel very sad if the search mission ends because there are so many still missing and buried", he said.

Indonesia sits along the world's most tectonically active region, and its 260 million people are vulnerable to earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions.

There was a major push in the region to improve warning systems after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami killed more than 120,000 in Indonesia alone, including establishing a network of 22 warning buoys to detect tsunamis that was put in place with German and U.S. help.

But the trickle of global aid to Palu and local efforts to help the survivors have accelerated in recent days.

Providing emergency healthcare is also challenging, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which said that around 2,500 people have been seriously injured in the disaster. Several other nations have also sent planeloads of aid.

CPL Laura Kjestrup helps a family as they arrive at Balikpapan airport.

Residents whose homes have been destroyed spend hours often futilely trying to secure necessities such as fuel for generators, seven days on from the disasters. The death toll has topped 1500. But the way is now open and aid is trickling in to the area that rescue workers feared had been obliterated.

The U.N. announced a $15 million allocation to bolster relief efforts.

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