Indonesia’s grim search for disaster dead draws to a close

Clay Curtis
October 13, 2018

No one knows how many people have yet to be found but it could be as many as 5,000, the national disaster mitigation agency said.

In East Java, three people were crushed to death in their sleep when the quake brought down buildings in Sumenep district and sent people fleeing their homes.

The US Geological Survey website stated the quake had a 6.0 magnitude.

Officials said it could be two years before all the homeless are found permanent accommodation.

Indonesia's disaster agency said the nighttime quake was centered at sea, 34 miles northeast of Situbondo city, and also felt in Lombok.

The head of Indonesia's geophysics agency said there had been no reports of casualties or damage, although information was still being gathered in East Java province.

The catastrophe on Sulawesi Island is the worst experienced by Indonesia since the tsunami swept the western province of Aceh in 2004, killing 167,000 people. People poured out of their houses.

BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said in a statement: "Based on our analysis of the natural disaster map, the quake's corresponding intensity was felt between III and IV on the Modified Mercalli Intensity (MMI) scale, or between light and moderate".

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The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are holding annual meetings on Bali through Sunday.

No tsunami warning was issued for the quake.

According to the latest data, the official death toll stood at 2,073 while 2,549 people have been seriously injured and 680 remain missing.

Central Sulawesi Governor Longki Djanggola told reporters that the disaster relief period will continue until October 26 in order to rebuild infrastructure and help the more than 82,000 people displaced in the catastrophe.

Possibly 5,000 people were buried in places where the quake caused liquefaction, a phenomenon where wet soil weakens and collapses, becoming mud that sucks houses and everything else into the ground in a quicksand-like effect.

Rehabilitation and reconstruction will take until 2021, the government says.

A total 2,073 bodies had been recovered since the twin disasters, authorities said Thursday.

He said focus now will go towards relief efforts, however authorities will not stop villagers from continuing to dig through the ruins for their lost family members and friends. The survivors should decide if they want to make collective graves, erect a monument, or turn them into green spaces.

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