Families looking for quake and tsunami victims pick through wreckage as end of official search nears

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There is a part of the city of Palu that looks like nothing more than a wasteland of twisted metal and splintered wood – but it is in fact a sacred ground with thousands of bodies buried underneath.

An official from Indonesia’s Disaster Agency says 5,000 people are now unaccounted for after a devastating earthquake and tsunami struck the island of Sulawesi on 28 September.

The authorities are preparing to close off two city districts – Balaroa and Petobo – and declare them mass graves.

Yet there are many people in this country who are not ready to move on – residents from these districts who need to know what has happened to their loved ones.

We met Rulham Latjuru as he scoured what is left of his family home in Balaroa on Sunday afternoon.

He has pulled out the bodies of four members of his extended family but he cannot find Rafa – his seven-year-old son.

Teams have been searching for survivors   Families looking for quake and tsunami victims pick through wreckage as end of official search nears skynews indonesia sulawesi 4446798
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Teams have been searching for survivors

Mr Latjuru said: “Even though my sense of hope has dropped by 95% I still keep trying.

“I won’t go home if I don’t find him. But if the rescue operation is stopped, well God knows I tried my best.”

A trained outdoorsman, Mr Latjuru has been climbing over and through these ruins for the past eight days and he takes comfort from his failure to dig Rafa out.

He continued: “We haven’t found the body so my hopes rise up.

“Maybe he has passed the test of this disaster or someone has saved him?”

Rafa was seen on the day of earthquake playing with his 8-year old cousin, Bulan – but she too has not been seen since the day of the disaster.

Imha, Bulan’s mother, told us she simply does not believe her little girl has gone.

She said: “I don’t have the feeling that she is stuck down below, I have the feeling that she is still alive.”

Surely Bulan is being cared for at a refugee camp, she said.

Rulham Latjuru has been searching for his 7-year-old son Rafa   Families looking for quake and tsunami victims pick through wreckage as end of official search nears skynews rulham latjuru indonesia 4446799
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Rulham Latjuru has been searching for his seven-year-old son Rafa

Imha continued: “I hope someone is looking after her and giving her food, it is only that, the food is bad, the aid is too little (in the camps).”

Family members want the search and rescue mission to continue and they do not want Balaroa fenced off and turned into a communal burial plot.

Nur Ainum, Rafa and Bulan’s aunt, told me the very thought made her angry.

She said: “I feel upset about that.



Families looking for quake and tsunami victims pick through wreckage as end of official search nears f22e5de7d18837fc3ab6b0b9a37be58e75b602a4e4c22ce4cb75fe84f4ca37ef 4445925




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Indonesia attempts to recover from destruction

“The government has been very slow to rescue people and there are so many (missing) people there – and they want to stop the rescue? I am very upset about that.”

Sutopo Nugroho, from Indonesia’s Disaster Response Agency, said the search for the unaccounted will end on Thursday.

He added that after that point “they will be listed as missing as presumed”.

Despite this, the people of this city will not stop looking.



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