PALU, Indonesia – The Latest on the earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia (all times local):
Indonesia’s top security minister says the government is considering turning some areas of disaster-stricken Sulawesi island into mass graves.
The security minister, Wiranto, says efforts to retrieve bodies are problematic in parts of the hard-hit city of Palu, including the Balaroa and Petobo neighborhoods, where the Sept. 28 earthquake caused loose soil to liquefy, causing hundreds of homes to be sucked into quicksand-like mud and burying possibly hundreds of victims.
Wiranto, who uses one name, said heavy equipment cannot operate in such areas because they could potentially sink in the soft mud.
Wiranto said on local television that the government is discussing with local and religious authorities and victims’ families the possibility of halting the search for victims in such areas and turning them into mass graves. The victims can be considered as “martyrs,” he added.
The powerful earthquake and tsunami that struck Palu and surrounding areas on Sept. 28 left at least 1,649 people dead.
Indonesia’s disaster agency says the death toll from the earthquake and tsunami that struck the Sulawesi island last week has risen to 1,649.
Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho says 265 people are reportedly missing, though more may be buried under deep mud and the rubble of homes and buildings that have collapsed.
He provided the updated figure Saturday at a news conference in Jakarta.
The twin disasters struck Palu and surrounding districts in Central Sulawesi province on Sept. 28.
Aid is continuing to pour into hard-hit areas of Indonesia’s Sulawesi island, which has been rattled by some 450 aftershocks since an earthquake and tsunami struck just over a week ago.
A military transport plane from Japan arrived in the city of Palu on Saturday carrying emergency relief, including food and medicine. Meanwhile, commercial flights to the airport have partially resumed with two to three flights per day.
Disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho posted a graphic on his Twitter account showing around 450 aftershocks being recorded in the area since the Sept. 28 quake, but they have decreased in frequency and intensity.
More than 70,000 people have been left homeless from the disaster and 1,571 people have been confirmed dead. Many more remain missing.