Volunteers bury more bodies from Indonesia quake

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PALU, Indonesia, Oct 5 (Reuters) - A week after a major natural disaster brought devastation to Indonesia's Sulawesi island, Ichsan Hidayat told how the bodies of his sister and her 43-day-old daughter were found under a sea of mud and debris, the mother clutching her baby to her chest.

One woman wiped tears from her eyes while mouthing the words as the voices rang out in unison.

The Indonesian government previously allowed tsunami survivors to take food and other basic supplies from grocery stores to temporarily support their lives after the tsunami while aids were being delivered to them.

Wiranto, who uses one name, said heavy equipment cannot operate in such areas because they could potentially sink in the soft mud. "Allah willing, heaven for him".

Men with skull caps sat on prayer mats in an open field outside the damaged Agung Mosque in Palu, some weeping openly as they reflected on their losses and prayed for their loved ones. Others braved the scorching sun as they listened to the mosque's imam encouraging them to be courageous.

Hoax warnings have proliferated since the magnitude 7.5 quake and tsunami on Friday, and the national disaster agency has asked people to only rely on credible sources of information.


Six more victims were buried October 5 in a mass grave, bringing the total to 643.

The disaster agency's efforts are being fronted by spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, who has won admirers for battling to update journalists around the clock despite suffering from terminal cancer.

Philip Besson, a member of the French organization Pompiers de l'urgence, said the team's high-tech sensors "detected the presence of a victim" in the wreckage of the four-star Mercure Hotel in Palu but wasn't able to say if the person is conscious.

The device can pick up breathing and heartbeats, but the team also cautioned gas leaks and other factors can result in false positives.

"We are perplexed and frustrated mostly". Now we have nothing at all. Local rescuers were continuing to dig at the site.

Suahasil Nazara, who heads the fiscal policy office at the finance ministry, said the strategy would be launched when Indonesia hosts the the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank in Bali later this month.


But some residents refused to give up hope.

Some power is back on in the stricken city of Palu and some shops are reopening. President Joko Widodo has ordered it be repaired and maintained.

Inhabitants of more remote, rural areas have complained of a lack of aid and support since the tragedy.

He said a multinational operation to fly aid supplies to disaster zones has been staged out of Balikpapan - a port city 380km west of Palu. The United Nations has said some 200,000 people, including tens of thousands of children, are in need of help. But since 2012, the devices have not been functioning, and many of them were vandalized or stolen, said the spokesman.

Some roads remain impassable, detritus from the tsunami is scattered everywhere, and terrified people are sleeping outside in makeshift camps for fear of more quakes.

Chunks of latticework appeared ready to fall off, as aftershocks continue to rock the region.


"We need quite a lot of tents".

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