Indonesia considers making devastated areas mass graves

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Christians dressed in their tidiest clothes flocked to Sunday sermons in the quake and tsunami damaged Indonesian city of Palu, seeking answers as the death toll from the twin disasters breached 1,700 and officials said they feared more than 5,000 others could be missing.

Hidayat was not on Sulawesi last on Friday when the 7.5 magnitude quake struck, triggering a phenomenon called soil liquefaction, which turns the ground into a roiling quagmire. "It's a long-term job, but after that, they'll come with the heavy machinery", Allibert told Reuters.

Bodies were still being removed from the other worst affected areas, such as the village of Petobo - about 7 km southeast of Palu - and Balaroa, where NGO workers estimated that over 1,000 people could still be buried.

He said that many people are still afraid of been trapped in the ruins in Palu, the provincial capital, and the districts of Donggala and Sigi.

Most of the dead have been found in the region's main urban centre, the small city of Palu.

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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 natural disaster and tsunami.

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.

Television footage showed personnel loading boxes of food into trucks that will be delivered to outlying areas, where many evacuees are still complaining that aid has been slow to arrive.

Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla, who arrived Friday in Palu to assess the situation, said it will take at least two years to reconstruct the disaster zone. They said they had clean water and noodles but not much else.

Indonesia has often been reluctant to be seen as relying on outside help to cope with disasters.

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"You have people circling those areas trying to get in but it's literally inaccessible", he said, adding that even standing just 200 metres from the remains of buildings "you can't actually get into those areas because the mud is thigh- or waist-deep".

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

Indonesia's top security minister says the government is considering turning some areas of disaster-stricken Sulawesi island into mass graves.

He provided the updated figure Sunday at a news conference in Jakarta. Traumatised survivors are desperate for any help.

Sergeant Syafaruddin, from an army unit in Makassar south of Palu, asked for a body bag to be brought to a spot near where the remnants of an Islamic school now stands.

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The city of Palu has been hardest hit. Several other nations have also sent planeloads of aid. Fitriani, a student from Palu who goes by one name, said his group survived the disaster but wasn't sure they could attend the competition until they were told they could board the military plane.