JAKARTA: The Indonesian government has extended by two weeks the emergency phase in earthquake-stricken areas of Sulawesi island in central Indonesia. Initially due to end today it will continue until Oct. 26, the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) revealed.
The government also decided to continue search efforts into today to recover bodies of victims of the 7.4-magnitude earthquake and the ensuing tsunami and landslides. The original plan was to end searches yesterday, worried that decomposing bodies could trigger diseases after two weeks buried under rubble.
“There were people who requested for the search and evacuation efforts to be extended for another day. But it will really have to end on Friday,” BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.
He added that the joint national search and rescue team will still be looking for bodies of victims in full force throughout the day but will officially end its work by sundown.
The search efforts will be reduced to a smaller effort with Palu’s search and rescue agency handling the work in case there more bodies are retrieved.
The number of those confirmed dead in the two weeks since the Sept. 28 quake rose to 2,073. As many as 1,663 were from Palu while the rest were from neighboring districts of Donggala, Sigi, Parigi Moutong and West Sulawesi’s Pasangkayu district. All those confirmed dead have been buried, Nugroho said.
Palu, the provincial capital with a population of 367,000, was been greatly affected by the triple disaster, with 65,773 houses on its coastline swept away by the tsunami. Further inland residential areas have been reduced to rubble.
Nugroho said the number of people still unaccounted for remains in the hundreds with the official figure given as 652 in Palu out of the overall total of 680. It is estimated, however, that thousands will eventually be classified as missing.
Central Sulawesi Governor Longki Djanggola revealed that the government will turn the devastated Balaroa, Petobo and Jono Oge housing areas into open green spaces to serve as a memorial park for those killed.
As Indonesia recovered from the Palu quake, a powerful undersea quake with 6.3 magnitude shook Situbondo in East Java province at 01:57 a.m. yesterday, according to the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency.
The quake killed three people, with falling debris injuring a further eight, Nugroho said.
The jolt was felt in some parts of neighboring island of Bali, where global leaders and thousands of world’s top financiers, economists, and bankers are gathered in southeast of the island for annual meetings of International Money Fund and World Bank.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad are scheduled to take some time off their schedule in Bali to visit Palu this week.
“The quakes in Situbondo and Palu are not connected to each other because the faults that triggered them are different,” Nugroho said.
The Indonesian archipelago sits along on the Pacific Ring of Fire where tectonic plates meet and subduct, meaning it is a disaster-prone area with frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.