Schools in Indonesia quake city begin counting how many children will be back


Schools in Indonesia quake city begin counting how many children will be back
French volunteers in Indonesia search for bodies in jumbled mire Fathin Ungku REUTERS/Darren Whiteside

Children in the Indonesian city of Palu began returning to school on Monday to tidy up their classrooms and to help gather data on how many of them will be coming back 10 days after a major earthquake and tsunami hit their city.

The 7.5 magnitude quake on Sept. 28 brought down many buildings in the small city on Sulawesi island, 1,500 km (30 miles) northeast of Jakarta, while tsunami waves smashed into its beachfront.

But the biggest killer was probably soil liquefaction, which happens when a powerful quake turns the ground into a liquid mire and which obliterated several Palu neighborhoods.

The official death toll is 1,763 but bodies are still being recovered. No one knows how many people are missing but it is at least in the hundreds.

At one state high school, teenagers dressed in gray and white uniforms swept up broken glass in the classrooms. Trophies had fallen from a broken school showcase and the basketball court was cracked.

“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.

The students found out that they had to turn up to school through messages on Facebook and WhatsApp.

School principal Kasiludin said authorities told all teachers to show up for work from Monday to collect information on student numbers.

“We won’t force the students to come back because many are traumatized. But we must start again soon to keep their spirits up and so they don’t fall behind,” he said.

The school had lost at least seven students and one teacher, he said.

Most of the dead from the quake and tsunami were in Palu, the region’s main urban center. Figures for more remote areas are trickling in but they seem to have suffered fewer deaths than the city.

Sulawesi is one of Indonesia’s five main islands. The archipelago sees frequent earthquakes and occasional tsunamis.

In 2004, a quake off Sumatra island triggered a tsunami across the Indian Ocean that killed 226,000 people in 13 countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia.

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