PALU, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia's search for victims buried in Palu neighborhoods annihilated by an earthquake and tsunami is drawing to a close Thursday almost two weeks after the double disasters hit the remote city.
Authorities say the official search and rescue effort will end with mass prayers in areas of the city such as Balaroa and Petobo, where the force of the quake liquefied soft soil and tore apart neighborhoods.
Volunteers and relatives of the missing are allowed to continue the grim searches of their own accord and disaster relief operations to support the tens of thousands left homeless are continuing.
The official death toll was 2,065 late Wednesday. Officially, 680 people are missing but officials have acknowledged the number could be several thousand because hundreds of homes were sucked into the earth.
Firefighters searched the rubble Thursday in a last push to find victims. They also burned debris and excavators dug into the tangled remains of buildings.
Heavy equipment hasn't been able to operate in neighborhoods where the earth turned to mud, hampering the search effort, and many bodies have decomposed beyond recognition due to the tropical heat.
Miles of coastline were trashed by the tsunami that followed the Sept. 28 quake, with houses swept off their foundations, trucks crumpled and numerous ships beached.