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The confirmed death toll from the devastating natural disaster and tsunami on Sulawesi island neared 2,000 on Monday, but thousands more remained unaccounted for and officials have said search teams planned to stop looking for victims later this week.

Officials had initially predicted some 1,000 people were buried beneath the ruins of Palu.

Most of the dead have been found in the region's main urban centre, the small city of Palu. The victims can be considered "martyrs", he said. The team only had a hand drill and stopped digging as night fell.

"They said they would come with the heavy machines but they didn't", she said.

Indonesian national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho says the body of a South Korean missing since last Friday's quake and tsunami in central Sulawesi has been found.

In the Balaroa neighbourhood of Palu, rescuers found 34 bodies on Saturday, and laid them out in a row of blue and orange bags, among them 10-year-old Dede Aulianisa. The United Nations has said some 200,000 people, including tens of thousands of children, are in need of help.

No one knows how many people are missing, especially in the areas hit by liquefaction, but it could be as high as 5,000, the national disaster agency said.

He said the aircraft will be used to transport supplies and evacuate victims.

Despite that, Allibert said it had been hard to get permits for Sulawesi.

The plane was loaded with what he described as family kits - clothing, bedding, food-making equipment, tarpaulins and tools for building shelters.

Indonesia has traditionally been reluctant to be seen as having to rely on outside help for natural disasters.

Global volunteers said many camps lack adequate sanitation, sparking fears of the spread of disease.

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Authorities have yet to conduct a tally of casualties in districts near the epicentre, but Lakuaci estimated dozens of people had been killed. Two people from his congregation were missing, he said.

Outside the church, Malonda said the intensity of the disaster had taken even scientists by surprise and called it the will of God.

But the trickle of global aid to Palu and local efforts to help the survivors have accelerated in recent days.

Prasetyo noted that the president has encouraged economic activities to restart but that businesses can't do that without security.

Udrekh, a disaster expert at Indonesia's Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT), said Indonesia is discussing with Japan whether to invest in seabed cables with sensors that could detect tsunami and earthquakes, similar to a system in Japan.

"That number is expected to rise, because we have not received orders to halt the search for bodies", Thohir, who is also a member of the government's official Palu quake taskforce, told AFP on Monday.

In coordination with the Government of Indonesia, IOM is preparing to send an aid convoy from the south of the island to the north, where needs are greatest.

Among those leaving are a group of students attending an Islamic competition in the Sumatran city of Medan. "She was wearing the exact scout uniform, with a sweater with the words "Geng 97", her father, Anwar, who like many Indonesian goes by only one name, told Reuters.

They are unsure when they'll be able to rebuild and spend hours each day often futilely trying to secure necessities such as fuel for generators.

People living in the camp said two residents died in collapsing houses in the village. Relief aid started arriving in the more remote areas of Sulawesi Island. The death toll has topped 1500. Work on restoring the power supply to affected areas was ongoing.

The U.N. announced a $15 million allocation to bolster relief efforts.


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