Despite frantic efforts to rescue as many people as possible, the death toll in Indonesia disaster has risen to frightening numbers. More bodies are expected beyond the current 832 recovered bodies.
A number of other survivors were still being found and a few were being pulled from buildings in different locations.
“We are trying our best. Time is so important here to save people,” said Muhammad Syaugi, head of the national search and rescue team. “Heavy equipment is on the way.”
Over the weekend, Vice President of Indonesia, Jusuf Kalla, said the death toll could be feared to reach thousands.
A mass grave is being dug for the victims of the devastating tsunami and earthquake in Indonesia, as searches continue for people still missing after the disaster.
In hills above the seaside city of Palu volunteers dug a 100 metre-long grave to bury the dead, with instructions to prepare for 1,300 victims to be laid to rest.
The death toll following the tsunami is expected to rise past the 832 where it currently stands.
The pit will initially contain 545 victims brought from one hospital alone. It will be 10m by 100m in size and “can be enlarged if needed,” according to a local military commander.
More than one million people are still to be assessed following the natural disaster.
Waves up to 10ft high swept through the city on Sulawesi island at speeds of almost 500mph on Friday, after a tsunami was triggered by a massive earthquake which hit the Indonesian city of Palu.
Shocking video footage that emergedf over the weekend showed buildings crumpled and streets overrun with water, in the earthquake’s wake.
So far, 832 people have been confirmed dead, but this number is expected to rise as areas that have been cut off from the damage are still to be reached.
The death toll is largely from Palu, but the regions of Donggala, Sigi and Parigi Moutong , with a combined population of 1.2 million, have yet to be fully assessed.
A mass burial has been planned for the victims, officials said.
Local Army Commander Tiopan Aritonang said that 545 bodies would be brought from one hospital alone, but that only some would be buried Monday. The grave being dug in Palu will be 10 meters by 100 meters (33 feet by 330 feet) and can be enlarged if needed, said Willem Rampangilei, chief of Indonesia’s National Disaster Mitigation Agency.
“This must be done as soon as possible for health and religious reasons,” he said.
Indonesia is majority Muslim, and religious custom calls for burials soon after death, typically within one day.
Local military spokesman Mohammad Thorir said the area adjacent to a public cemetery on a hill can hold as many as 1,000 bodies. All of the victims, coming from local hospitals, have been photographed to help families locate where their relatives were buried.
Military and commercial aircraft were delivering some aid and supplies to the region. But there was a desperate need for heavy equipment to reach possible survivors buried in collapsed buildings, including an eight-story hotel in Palu where voices were heard in the rubble.
A 25-year-old woman was found alive Sunday evening in the ruins of the Roa-Roa Hotel, according to the National Search and Rescue Agency, which released photos of the her lying on a stretcher covered in a blanket.