Indonesia Begins Mass Burials for Earthquake, Tsunami Victims As Toll Passes 844

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People at a make-shift shelter in Palu in Central Sulawesi province, Indonesia. Death toll from Indonesia’s strong quakes and tsunami in Central Sulawesi province climbed to 844, as lack of rescuers and large stricken areas remaining hard to access hampered search and rescue efforts, a government official said. (Xinhua/IANS)

JAKARTA (IANS) — Indonesian authorities have started burying some of the confirmed dead in mass graves as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of disease as rescuers continued on Monday to hunt for survivors in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that killed 844 people in Indonesia’s Sulawesi island, leading to large-scale destruction and prompting food and fuel shortage.

The spokesperson for the National Agency for Disaster Management (BNPB), Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, said the mass burials will be held in the outskirts of Palu, one of the city most affected by the disaster where 821 of the 832 victims died, reports Efe news.

Sutopo said that the authorities decided to open the mass grave in order to bury the victims who have already been identified and to prevent the spread of disease.

Meanwhile, rescue teams continue to search for survivors and other victims under the collapsed buildings demolished by the 7.5-magnitude earthquake, which has left 540 people hospitalised and at least 16,732 others displaced.

The authorities are also working to restore basic services such as electricity supply in Palu, where several electric generators were deployed by a Hercules aircraft of the Indonesian Air Force to facilitate the process, according to the BNPB spokesperson.

The Palu airport was reopened to commercial flights on Sunday, but humanitarian aid flights will be given priority, according to the authorities.

Palu, a city of 350,000, was the worst affected and reduced to ruins. Dead bodies covered by tarps lay in the city’s streets, exposed to Indonesia’s blistering heat, as rescuers searched rubble for survivors buried in crumpled buildings.

Vice-President Jusuf Kalla said the final death toll could be in the thousands. Authorities started burying some of the confirmed dead in mass graves as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of disease, the BBC reported.

The Indonesian Health Ministry is supplying additional medical personnel and equipment.

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