'They erupted in cheers' - footage of NZDF Indonesia tsunami evacuation

Palu residents being evacuated from the city on board an RNZAF Hercules

SUPPLIED Petty Officer Chris Weissenborn Palu residents being evacuated from the city on board an RNZAF Hercules

The death toll from the natural disaster and tsunami which devastated Indonesia's Sulawesi island has topped 1,700, as officials fear another 5,000 people could be missing.

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.

Hardest-hit was Palu city on Sulawesi island, which was left in ruins after it was struck by a powerful quake and a wall of water that reduced whole neighborhoods to piles of wood and twisted metal.

"We're going to clear off all the superficial rubble that's on top and get into the spaces and see if there are bodies", Mr Allibert told Reuters as he surveyed a terrible jumble of debris.

"We've marked the possible bodies with sticks".

SEARCH teams in Indonesia have pulled more bodies from neighbourhoods in the quake and tsunami-stricken city of Palu as further worldwide aid arrived and humanitarian workers fanned out.

He said on local television that survivors in the outlying villages in Petobo, Balaroa and Jono Oge could be relocated and monuments be built in the areas, which now look like wastelands, to remember the victims interred there. Figures for more remote areas, some just re-connected to the outside world by road, are trickling in.

Rescuers picking through the grim aftermath of Indonesia's quake-tsunami issued a fresh public health warning Saturday as more decaying corpses were unearthed from beneath the ruined city of Palu.

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"They said they would come with the heavy machines but they didn't", she said. Allibert said it would take months to find all the bodies. "Thousands of people can not return to their destroyed or damaged homes, aftershocks continue", - said the press service of the office of the United Nations high Commissioner for humanitarian Affairs.

Aid has been slow to reach survivors, and desperate villagers have stormed into shops to grab food supplies.

Evacuees had queued to get on to the Hercules C-130, many carrying backpacks and bags, and said they had lost homes and relatives, a New Zealand Defence Force statement said. "Where are they? What if they are still alive?" Eight victims in black body bags were arranged in a row at the crumpled neighbourhood of Balaroa, destined for a mass grave.

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

Indonesian police say 92 people have been arrested for looting goods in areas devastated by an quake and tsunami in Central Sulawesi province.

The extent of the destruction as the aircraft flew into Palu on Friday afternoon was worse than he anticipated, Natapu said.

Deputy Foreign Minister Abdurrahman Mohammad Fachir told a briefing in Jakarta that 25 countries and four foreign organisations had offered help and ministries were coordinating to facilitate the arrival of their aid.

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