5000 feared missing as search for Indonesia quake victims continues

At mass grave above Indonesian city many questions linger

NZDF evacuates 120 quake survivors on Hercules aircraft from Palu

The death toll from the devastating quake and tsunami on Indonesia's Sulawesi island neared 2,000 on Monday, but thousands more are believed unaccounted for and officials said search teams plan to stop looking for victims later this week.

The tens of thousands left homeless by the disaster are scattered across Palu and beyond.

More than 5,000 people could still be missing in Indonesia, following a powerful quake that hit the island of Sulawesi last week, officials said on Sunday.

"Most of the bodies we have found are not intact, and that poses a danger for the rescuers". The number of bodies lying beneath the mound of rubble, metal and mud is unknown.

The government targets to end search operations by Thursday, almost two weeks after the disaster, at which time those unaccounted for will be declared missing and considered dead, Mr Nugroho said.

The figure drastically increases the estimates for those who disappeared when the disaster struck 10 days ago.

While his family was spared, scores attending a beach festival in Palu were among those swept away, adding to the more than 1,600 deaths from the 7.5 magnitude quake and tsunami that have been confirmed so far.

But the latest tally speaks to the considerable destruction in the worst-hit areas of Petobo and Balaroa as the picture on the ground has become clearer.

The New Zealand Defence Force has evacuated 120 survivors from earthquake-ravaged Palu in Indonesia.

Meanwhile in Sulawesi, 82,000 military, civilians and volunteers continue in the search and rescue effort, even as the island had been rocked by 451 aftershocks since the powerful quake.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo called this week for the buoys to be repaired or replaced, but experts and officials say investment has also been neglected in other areas.

Nearly all of the dead have been buried in mass graves.

"I am hoping for a miracle", said Bambang, who has been searching daily at the hotel site for his pregnant wife.

The National Disaster Management Agency said that most bodies were retrieved from Palu, the provincial capital, followed by the districts of Donggala, Sigi, Parigi Mountong and a district of Pasang Kayu in nearby West Sulawesi province.

Traumatised survivors are desperate for help.

Hasnah said she has enough food and water but she's furious that a search and rescue operation in her area only began on Thursday.

Indonesian soldiers unloading supplies brought in by the New Zealanders. "We never get any warning from it", said Kurniawan, 46.

A Japanese Self Defense Force plane landed at Palu's airport Saturday morning.

Teams of Indonesian Red Cross workers set up warehouses and fanned out to distribute supplies across the region.

In Palu, banks and businesses reopened and the chaos surrounding the distribution of food, water and gasoline during the initial aftermath of the tragedy, had ended.

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.

Latest News