Death toll from Indonesia's earthquake-tsunami disaster rises to almost 1,424

Indonesia battles fake news after quake-tsunami disaster

PALU, Indonesia, Oct 5 (Reuters) - A week after a major quake brought devastation to Indonesia's Sulawesi island, Ichsan Hidayat told how the bodies of his sister and her 43-day-old daughter were found under a sea of mud and debris, the mother clutching her baby to her chest.

The city, 1,500 km (930 miles) northeast of Indonesia's capital, Jakarta, has teetered close to chaos this week, with outbreaks of looting, but a recovery was evident as some shops and banks reopened and a major mobile phone network was back in operation.

By Thursday, the official death toll stood at 1,424, but it is widely expected to rise as most of the dead accounted for have been from Palu, while figures for remote areas are trickling in or remain unknown. He said security will be necessary for economic activity to resume.

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

Jakarta, Oct 5 The death toll in Indonesia's powerful quake and an ensuing tsunami in Sulawesi Island jumped to 1,571 on Friday while search and rescue for the victims was extended, officials said.

"We pray for the ones who have died and for those yet to be found", the imam said.

Indonesia sits along the Pacific "Ring of Fire", the world's most tectonically active region, and its 260 million people are vulnerable to earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions.

The national disaster agency says more than 148 million Indonesians are at risk in earthquake-prone areas and 3.8 million people also face danger from tsunamis, with at most a 40 minute window for warning people to flee.

More than 50 Australian medical professionals will provide emergency health support, as the government talks to Indonesia about what else might be needed.

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Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi says military transport aircraft from India and Singapore have arrived to help in relief efforts in central Sulawesi, which was hit by a powerful quake and tsunami.

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

Landslides, severely damaged roads and other challenges have made it hard to assess the full extent of the disaster.

President Rodrigo Duterte has urged ASEAN members to strengthen solidarity after a devastating quake and tsunami hit Indonesia. He said he believes his son, who was praying at the time when the disaster struck, has gone to heaven.

Many victims might have survived with faster help, said Palu resident Bambang.

Supply of gasoline has also been gradually improving as the government ordered state-run oil and gas firm Pertamina to mobilize its gasoline stocks stored in provinces around Central Sulawesi to Palu.

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.

"The looters were not people from the affected areas".

Among those leaving are a group of students attending an Islamic competition in the Sumatran city of Medan.

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