Quake in Indonesia: the number of victims exceeded 1,640

Air Loadmaster Leading Aircraftman Toni Thompson helps a couple and their baby on board an RNZAF Hercules in the earthquake-damaged Indonesian city of Palu

Air Loadmaster Leading Aircraftman Toni Thompson helps a couple and their baby on board an RNZAF Hercules in the earthquake-damaged Indonesian city of Palu

Indonesia's disaster agency says the death toll from the quake and tsunami that struck the Sulawesi island last week has risen to 1,649.

Spokesman of the national disaster management agency Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said that most of the bodies were retrieved from Palu, the provincial capital, followed by the districts of Donggala, Sigi, Parigi Mountong and a district of Pasang Kayu in nearby West Sulawesi province.

Australia is providing additional support to Indonesia in the wake of the devastating quake and tsunami which struck Sulawesi on 28 September.

Australia's first delivery of urgent supplies will arrive soon in Indonesia to help up to 10,000 people displaced by the quake and tsunami.

"They were found in front of my brother's house opposite the mosque", Rahman said.

News agency AFP reports that the devastation in two areas - Petobo and Balaroa - has been so bad, officials are considering declaring them mass graves.

The disaster struck part of Sulawesi two weeks ago, leaving at least 1,754 dead and another 2,549 injured.

A French rescue worker says his team, using high-tech scanners, has detected a person believed to be still alive under the rubble of a hotel in the Indonesian city of Palu, almost a week after it was struck by a powerful quake and tsunami. Figures for more remote areas, some only just re-connected to the outside world by road, are only trickling in.

Royal Australian Air Force Capt. Bryan Parker says the military transport plane will reach central Sulawesi late Thursday from Darwin. They said they had clean water and noodles but not much else.

Spokesman of joint task force for Central Sulawesi province Col. Infantry Muh Thohir said that a total of 2,549 people were still in hospitals for medical treatment after the disasters hit the central province on September 28.

The aid is part of a $3.6 million relief commitment, including more than 50 medical professionals, that Australia made on Wednesday.

The government shunned foreign aid this year when earthquakes struck the island of Lombok but said it would accept help from overseas for Sulawesi.

While destruction is extensive, with many houses destroyed, villagers said countless lives were saved by a 6.1 magnitude quake that struck about 20 km (12 miles) to the south three hours earlier.

An airport damaged by the natural disaster in central Indonesia is expected to re-open to civilian traffic later Thursday.

Outside the church, Malonda said the intensity of the disaster had taken even scientists by surprise and called it the will of God.

Wiranto, who uses one name, said heavy equipment cannot operate in such areas because they could potentially sink in the soft mud.

The country's disaster agency announced the search for survivors would end Thursday, despite fears that scores of people still remain buried under heaps of rubble and mud.

The neighbourhood of Petobo, in the south of the city of Palu, where his sister, Husnul Hidayat, lived with her daughter, Aisah, was wiped out.

Several non-governmental groups were also arriving.

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