Further Australian support following the Sulawesi natural disaster and tsunami

Indonesian soldiers unloading supplies brought in by the New Zealanders

SUPPLIED Petty Officer Chris Weissenborn Indonesian soldiers unloading supplies brought in by the New Zealanders

Balaroa was one of the areas hardest hit by the September 28 magnitude 7.5 quake, which threw homes in the neighborhood tens of meters and left cars upright or perched on eruptions of concrete and asphalt.

One woman wiped tears from her eyes while mouthing the words as the voices rang out in unison. Many hundreds of people are now entombed in slowly drying mud churned with heaps of debris and vehicles.

Doctors said many patients have been at high risk of infection because they were buried in mud. He said he believes his son, who was praying at the time when the disaster struck, has gone to heaven. "Allah willing, heaven for him".

Men with skull caps sat on prayer mats in an open field outside the damaged Agung Mosque in Palu, some weeping openly as they reflected on their losses and prayed for their loved ones. Others braved the scorching sun as they listened to the mosque's imam encouraging them to be courageous.

The death toll from the natural disaster and tsunami that struck Indonesia's Sulawesi island has risen to 1,763, with more than 5,000 feared missing.

Wiranto said on local television that the government is discussing with local and religious authorities and victims' families the possibility of halting the search for victims in such areas and turning them into mass graves.

Disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told a briefing in Jakarta some limited searching might continue but large-scale searches with many personnel and heavy equipment would cease on October 11.

'We have to make a decision as to when the search for the dead will end.

"We won't force the students to come back because many are traumatised". Now we have nothing at all.

'We have vaccinated our teams, but we need to be extra cautious'.

Children in the Indonesian city of Palu began returning to school on Monday to tidy up their classrooms and hopefully see their friends 10 days after a major natural disaster and tsunami struck.

Local rescuers continued to dig at the collapsed four-star hotel.

Nugroho said other victims still are buried in the mud and debris and have not yet been recovered.

But some residents refused to give up hope.

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In Palu, banks and businesses reopened and the chaos surrounding the distribution of food, water and gasoline during the initial aftermath of the tragedy, had ended.

"It's sad to see our school like this", said Dewi Rahmawati, 17, who expects to graduate next year and wants to study economics at university. Ships and more than two dozen military transport planes, including ones from Japan, New Zealand and India, have arrived in Palu carrying hundreds of tons of food and badly needed supplies and heavy equipment.

Air Loadmaster Sergeant Daniel Swanson and Indonesian soldiers help offload supplies flown into Palu on an RNZAF Hercules.

He said the government will ensure that affected children return to school within a month.

Social welfare officials have set up nurseries in makeshift tents as a stopgap to keep children safe and help them heal from the trauma.

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

Most of the dead have been found in Palu, the region's main urban center.

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