Jakarta, Oct 7 (IANS) Indonesian authorities on Sunday raised the death toll in the devastating earthquake and an ensuing tsunami in Sulawesi Island to 1,763, with at least 5,000 people still reported missing.
The September 28 7.5-magnitude earthquake that triggered a tsunami on the island had also left rescue workers and officials trying to determine how many people were still missing after several villages were destroyed, disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.
“Victims who have not been found have been declared missing,” Nugroho said, adding that the number of fatalities was likely to increase once the damage in rural areas was fully assessed.
The earthquake had caused loose soil to liquefy and turn to mud which engulfed buildings, and the data of persons missing corresponded to the neighbourhood of Petobo in Palu – the provincial capital – where some 2,050 houses were buried under the mud, reports Efe news.
The phenomenon of soil liquefying suffered by Petobo occurs when a strong telluric movement or temblor strikes loose earth where there are also large pockets of water.
This causes the terrain to collapse and release a large amount of mud that pulls in buildings and structures.
Indonesian authorities had previously estimated the number of missing persons to be a few hundred despite several organisations working in the affected region warning that there could be more than a thousand missing in just Petobo and Balaroa, both in Palu.
Nugroho said that the bulk of earthquake victims, so far 1,519, were concentrated in Palu, the main city and economic centre of the region.
He also said that the number of seriously injured amounted to 2,632 and some 62,000 displaced people had been housed in around 147 temporary shelters.