A woman holds a stuffed toy after it was found at her destroyed home where she says she lost three children, in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, October 7 2018. Picture: REUTERS/JORGE SILVA
A woman holds a stuffed toy after it was found at her destroyed home where she says she lost three children, in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, October 7 2018. Picture: REUTERS/JORGE SILVA

Palu, Indonesia — The number of people believed missing from the quake and tsunami that struck Indonesia’s Palu city has soared to 5,000, an official said on Sunday, indicating that far more may have perished in the twin disaster than the current toll.

Indonesia’s disaster agency said they had recovered 1,763 bodies so far after the 7.5-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami that struck Sulawesi on September 28.

New video footage has emerged of last week's tsunami striking the Indonesian city of Palu. The footage, shot by a social media user, shows a wall of muddy water sweeping through the streets and washing away cars.

However, there are fears that two of the hardest-hit neighbourhoods in Palu — Petobo and Balaroa — could contain thousands more victims, swallowed up by ground that engulfed whole communities in a process known as liquefaction. "Based on reports from the [village] heads of Balaroa and Petobo, there are about 5,000 people who have not been found," agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said on Sunday.

"Nevertheless, officials there are still trying to confirm this and are gathering data. It is not easy to obtain the exact number of those trapped by landslides, or liquefaction, or mud." Nugroho said the search would continue until October 11, at which point they would be listed as missing, presumed dead.

The figure drastically increases the estimates for those who disappeared 10 days ago. Officials had initially predicted about 1,000 people were buried beneath the ruins of Palu.

Petobo, a cluster of villages in Palu, was virtually wiped out by the powerful quake and wall of water. Much of it was sucked whole into the ground as the quake turned soil to quicksand.

In Balaroa, a massive government housing complex was also subsumed by the quake and rescuers have struggled to extract bodies from the tangled mess in the aftermath of the disaster.

AFP

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