5000 feared missing as search for Indonesia quake victims continues

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Indonesian man chat on top of the rubble at Petobo neighbourhood, which was wiped out by earthquake-triggered tsunami, in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018.

Rescuers picking through the grim aftermath of Indonesia's quake-tsunami issued a fresh public health warning Saturday, October 6, as more decaying corpses were unearthed from beneath the ruined city of Palu.

Hundreds more people are believed to be entombed in slowly drying mud that enveloped communities in the south of the city. Officials had initially predicted some 1,000 people were buried beneath the ruins of Palu.

In the Balaroa neighbourhood, also laid waste by liquefaction, the most intact structure was a battered two-storey house, pitched over at almost 45 degrees with one side buried and a blue vehicle in the auto port. Rescuers found about 25 bodies, laying them out in a row of blue and orange bags.

Many thousands of people are still too afraid to stay in their houses, especially at night, owing to the ongoing aftershocks. "Our workers on the ground are trying to confirm this".

"We won't force the students to come back because many are traumatised".

"We're already angry", the 25-year-old said.

Aid has been slow to reach survivors, and desperate villagers have stormed into shops to grab food supplies.

"Victims who have not been found are declared missing", he said, as he indicated a limited amount of searching might still be undertaken but large-scale searches will end.

School principal Abdul Rashid said he was aware of four students killed in the quake.

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No one knows how many people are missing but it is at least in the hundreds, rescuers say. "Many children are traumatised and frightened". But on Monday morning, fewer than 50 out of 697 students showed up.

"I want to think positively; I hope they are OK", said Muhamad Islam Bintang Lima, dressed in the school uniform of white shirt and navy blue pants.

The country continues to receive global assistance, but the destruction is not able to deliver it to anyone who needs it. Planes with humanitarian aid to Indonesia sent 11 countries. The natural disaster ripped apart the roads, hindering access, so helicopters have been dropping aid supplies to more remote areas.

Rocked by back-to-back disasters of an quake and a tsunami, the scale of the devastation on Sulawesi island is still being uncovered.

The natural disaster triggered tsunami waves that reached six meters.

Almost a week after a magnitude 7.5 quake spawned a deadly tsunami on Indonesia's island of Sulawesi, countless people have yet to find their loved ones _ both survivors and the dead.

Debris would be cleared and areas hit by liquefaction would be turned into parks and sports venues and will include memorials.

He said people have "nowhere else to go, as their homes no longer exist and there are many thousands of displaced people in this situation".

"We don't want the community to be relocated to such unsafe places", he said.