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Death toll from Indonesian tsunami approaching 2,000

THE confirmed death toll from the earthquake and tsunami that hit the Indonesian island of Sulawesi approached 2,000 yesterday.

Thousands remain unaccounted for, but search teams will stop work later this week, officials said.

National Board for Disaster Management chief Willem Rampangilei said as many as 5,000 victims could still be buried in deep mud in Balaroa and Petobo, two of the hardest-hit neighbourhoods of the city of Palu.

The earthquake, which struck on September 28, caused the loose and wet soil of the region to liquify and the soft earth makes it impossible for heavy equipment to be used to recover bodies. Mr Rampangilei said decomposition would already be “advanced.”

Villages in the area would have to be relocated entirely, he added: “It is impossible to rebuild in areas with high liquefaction risk.”

Talks were under way with religious authorities and surviving family members to decide whether some areas could be turned into mass graves for victims entombed there, with monuments built to commemorate them.

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