5000 feared missing as search for Indonesia quake victims continues

5000 feared missing as search for Indonesia quake victims continues

5000 feared missing as search for Indonesia quake victims continues

Indonesian soldiers help offload the 10.6 tonnes of supplies brought by a Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft to Palu, the Indonesian port city devastated by a 7.5-magnitude quake and tsunami on 28 September.

This footage shows destruction in Palu on October 3.

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

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 Toraja Church in Jono Oge village, just south of Palu, had cracks through is walls and is considered unsafe.

"Today, I prayed that they are in a better place".

As the sun slipped behind the mountains and a gentle breeze blew onshore, hundreds of people gathered on an Indonesian beach Friday to chant a Muslim prayer - and remember those they lost - one week after a massive quake and tsunami ravaged the area, killing more than 1,500 people.

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

A series of earthquakes in July and August killed almost 500 people on the holiday island of Lombok, hundreds of kilometres southwest of Sulawesi.

Hoax warnings have proliferated since the magnitude 7.5 quake and tsunami on Friday, and the national disaster agency has asked people to only rely on credible sources of information. Their mother was killed and her body found.

"There are so many corpses around here", said Irwan, 37, a resident of Petobo, standing amidst the ruins.

Things are even more desperate in remoter areas. "These two brothers were hugging each other".

Homes were sucked into the earth, torn apart and shunted hundreds of metres by the churning mud.

"They were found in front of my brother's house opposite the mosque", Rahman said.

Sick of waiting for help, villagers themselves have been searching, Hasnah said. The work to retrieve bodies has been hampered by lack of heavy equipment to dig them out.

In the Petobo neighbourhood nearby, a team of French rescue experts began hunting through an expanse of debris, looking for hands, feet or any body parts of victims sticking out of the mud.

The sense of relief was "palpable" among the 120 survivors huddled on the deck of the NZ Defence Force Hercules aircraft as it took off from the tsunami devastated Indonesian city of Palu. "We're still scared but we pray because we believe God will help us", said the woman, Eliwati, who wore a bright blue dress with an ethnic Toraja pattern, a splash of color in a bleak landscape. "Allahu Akbar", or God is greatest, responded the congregation. Electricity has been restored and some shops and banks have reopened and aid and fuel are arriving.

"All this while in this crisis, we don't have water, we don't have food", he said.

Pews were brought out and set up under the tent.

Rescue workers are pushing into outlying districts cut off for days.

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

In December 2004, a massive 9.1-magnitude quake off the northern Indonesian island of Sumatra triggered a tsunami across the Indian Ocean countries, killing 220,000 people in 13 countries, including more than 168,000 in Indonesia.

Related news