A picture seen on Sunday (07/10) among the rubble of a house destroyed in last month's earthquake in Palu, Central Sulawesi. (Reuters Photo/Jorge Silva)

Schools in Disaster-Struck Palu Begin Counting How Many Children Will Return

BY :FATHIN UNGKU AND KANUPRIYA KAPOOR

OCTOBER 08, 2018

Palu. Children in Palu, Central Sulawesi, began returning to school on Monday (08/10) 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 magnitude-7.4 quake on Sept. 28 brought down many buildings in the provincial capital, 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 grey-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.

Positive Thinking

At the SMP Negeri 15 Palu, fewer than 50 of its 697 students showed up.

School principal Abdul Rashid said he was aware of four students killed in the quake.

"Classes haven't started. We're only collecting data to find out how many students are safe," he said.

"I'm still waiting for the Ministry of Education to give us instructions on when to begin classes. For now, I don't think we're ready. Many children are traumatized and frightened."

One boy chatting in the school compound with a few friends said he was disappointed that so few of his classmates had shown up.

"I want school to start as soon as possible so I can find out how my friends are doing," said Muhamad Islam Bintang Lima, dressed in the school uniform of white shirt and navy-blue trousers.

"I haven't heard from so many of them. I want to think positively; I hope they are O.K."

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

Indonesia 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.

National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said on Sunday that searches for bodies would stop on Thursday.

Debris would be cleared and areas hit by liquefaction would be turned into parks, sports venues and other public spaces, he said.

Reuters

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