JAKARTA – Indonesian authorities ended on Friday the search for victims of the earthquake and subsequent tsunami, which killed at least 2,075 in the northern part of the island of Sulawesi.
Over 75 percent of the casualties were recorded in the city of Palu, which was visited on Friday by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
“Here in Palu, I saw first-hand the destruction caused by the recent earthquake and tsunami. To the many people I saw and spoke to: your strength and resilience are remarkable,” Guterres said on Twitter.
The UN has appealed for $50 million in emergency aid for the survivors.
The end of the search operation comes exactly two weeks after a magnitude-7.5 earthquake, which also triggered a tsunami.
In Balarao in western Palu and in Petobo, around seven kilometers (4.3 miles) southeast, the temblor caused soil liquefaction, which causes soft ground to liquefy, triggering landslides.
Local officials believe that there are around 5,000 people still buried under the mud in the region, although the official figure of the missing stands at 680.
According to the authorities, the possibility of finding anyone alive under the rubble or mud is almost non-existent.
It has also become increasingly difficult to dig up bodies due to their advanced state of decomposition.
The authorities had decided to suspend the search on Thursday, but had extended it by another 24 hours at the insistence of the relatives of those missing.
Shortly after the catastrophe, National Agency for Disaster Management spokesperson Sutopo Purwo Nugroho had acknowledged that the buoy systems installed after the 2004 tsunami, which caused 226,000 deaths in a dozen countries around the Indian Ocean rim, did not work.