Quake Search and Rescue Ends in 4 Days

NZDF evacuates 120 quake survivors on Hercules aircraft from Palu

The death toll from the quake and tsunami that struck Indonesia's Sulawesi island has risen to 1,763, with more than 5,000 feared missing.

Indonesian national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho says the body of a South Korean missing since last Friday's quake and tsunami in central Sulawesi has been found.

Officially, Mr Nugroho said only 265 people are confirmed missing and 152 others still buried under mud and rubble, nine days after the magnitude 7.5 natural disaster and powerful tsunami hit Palu and its surrounding areas.

The sense of relief was "palpable" among the 120 survivors huddled on the deck of the NZ Defence Force Hercules aircraft as it took off from the tsunami devastated Indonesian city of Palu.

Min Kapala, a 49-year-old teacher, said she came to the city of more than 25 churches from an outlying area because her usual house of worship was destroyed and liquefaction moved a different piece of ground to its location.

No one knows how many people were dragged to their deaths when the ground under Petobo and nearby areas south of Palu, dissolved so violently.

Indonesia's disaster agency said the number of dead had climbed to 1,763, mostly in Palu.

Most of the dead have been found in the region's main urban centre, the small city of Palu. "Thousands of people can not return to their destroyed or damaged homes, aftershocks continue", - said the press service of the office of the United Nations high Commissioner for humanitarian Affairs.

The Aid or access is still an obstacle to reach the stricken communities on Indonesian island of Sulawesi, UN aid agencies said on Friday.

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"You have people circling those areas trying to get in but it's literally inaccessible", he said, adding that even standing just 200 metres from the remains of buildings "you can't actually get into those areas because the mud is thigh- or waist-deep".

Parker says Australian officials are ready to help the Indonesians transfer the aid further in the disaster zone.

The official death toll from last week's quake and the tsunami it triggered stands at 1,571, but it will certainly rise.

. Many hundreds of people are now entombed in slowly drying mud churned with heaps of debris and vehicles.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman of Indonesia's Mitigation and Disaster Agency (BNPB), holds a second news conference to brief reporters, September 29, 2018.

Indonesia's top security minister says the government is considering turning some areas of disaster-stricken Sulawesi island into mass graves.

Flight Lieutenant Dave Natapu said he'd rarely witnessed desolation like he saw in Palu from the air.

Military officials said Palu's airport is expected to reopen for civilian traffic later on Thursday.

Evacuees had queued to get on to the Hercules C-130, many carrying backpacks and bags, and said they had lost homes and relatives, a New Zealand Defence Force statement said.

Indonesia has the world's biggest Muslim population but also pockets of Christians, including on Sulawesi, and other religions.

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