People survey the damage to a residential area following a massive earthquake and tsunami at Talise beach in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. (Photo: AP)
JAKARTA, (Xinhua) -- The death toll from multiple strong quakes and an ensuing tsunami in Indonesia's Central Sulawesi province jumped to 1,944 as of Sunday as the search and rescue operation is expected to be completed on Thursday, military and disaster agency officials said.
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.
The number of people who were missing or believed to be buried under the debris were 683 and 152 respectively, he said.
Spokesman of the national disaster management agency Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said that most of the bodies were retrieved from Palu, the provincial capital, followed by the districts of Donggala, Sigi, Parigi Mountong and a district of Pasang Kayu in nearby West Sulawesi province.
"The search for the victim is expected to be completed on Thursday," Sutopo told Xinhua.
Still, he asserted that it did not mean that the search mission was to end on that day. "It will not be terminated."
Sutopo has elaborated that based on the procedures the operation is carried out for seven days, but it could be extended for three days, after that further steps could be taken after a discussion with local authorities.
He stressed that if the communities decided to persist the mission, it could be undertaken with a small scale of rescue teams.
The quakes and tsunami have forced a total of 62,359 Indonesians to flee their homes and take shelter in makeshift tents and under tarpaulins at 147 evacuation centers, he added.
Powerful and shallow quakes of 6.0, 7.4 and 6.1 magnitude that triggered a tsunami devastated the province on September 28 with the hardest-hit area in Palu and adjoining Donggala district.
The tsunami, which followed the quakes with the height of 0.5 to 3 meters, ravaged coastal areas near the Talisa beach in Palu and Donggala district, according to the meteorology and geophysics agency.