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Disinfectant dropped on Indonesia quake city to reduce disease risk

Many victims are believed to be buried in mud following the tsunami provoked by the tremor.

Helicopters are dropping disinfectant on neighbourhoods in the earthquake- and tsunami-stricken city of Palu to reduce disease risks from the thousands of victims believed buried in obliterated communities, Indonesia’s disaster agency has said.

The agency said that 1.7 square miles of land and nearly 3,500 homes succumbed to liquefaction in central Sulawesi when the September 28 earthquake turned soft soil to mud.

Bombing and spraying of disinfectants is an effort to anticipate the spread of diseases through vectors such as flies, cockroaches, or mice Sutopo Purwo Nugroho

Spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said in a statement the disinfectant is necessary for three devastated neighbourhoods because of the large number of victims not recovered by the search and rescue effort that ended on October 12.

“Bombing and spraying of disinfectants is an effort to anticipate the spread of diseases through vectors such as flies, cockroaches, or mice,” he said.

Some ground spraying was also carried out but much of the land is too unstable to do that comprehensively.

The magnitude 7.4 quake and 11 meter high tsunami waves, which devastated miles of coastline, killed 2,103 people.

Disaster officials say another 5,000 people from neighbourhoods swallowed by liquefaction remain unaccounted for.

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File picture of a heavy machine digging through rubble in Balaroa (Dita Alangkara/AP)

Officials say the destroyed Palu neighbourhoods of Balaroa and Petobo, and Jono Oge in neighbouring Sigi district, cannot be redeveloped.

Balaroa and Petobo will be turned into green spaces with monuments to those who perished.

Ahmad Yurianto, head of the Ministry of Health’s crisis centre, said groundwater needs to be checked regularly for contamination and drainage established to collect rainwater before it enters the city’s river.

The Indonesian government is considering a plan to build New Palu City and the World Bank has said it can provide the country up to one billion US dollars in loans for reconstruction and improving disaster preparedness.

“It is impossible to rebuild homes in the original places,” public works and housing minister Basoeki Hadimoeljono told reporters earlier this week.

The Indonesian Red Cross said Thursday there is a massive effort underway to distribute 215 metric tons of relief such as tarpaulins, clean drinking water and other items to tens of thousands of displaced people before monsoon rains set in.

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