Indonesia natural disaster: Search and rescue effort called off

Indonesia tells independent foreign aid workers to leave quake zone

But Mr Nugruho said that there is a danger in continuing the search, with decomposing bodies potentially causing diseases like cholera.

The magnitude 7.5-quake and a subsequent tsunami razed whole swathes of Palu to the ground on 28 September.

According ot the US Geological Survey, the magnitude 6.0 quake's epicentre was about 40 km north-east of Sumberanyar on nearby Java island. At least a dozen bodies were recovered, a Reuters photographer said. Around 5,000 people were thought to still be missing.

"We just came here because the government of Indonesia asked for assistance", said Marcus Butler from South African charity Gift of the Givers, which was denied permission to help with the search.

Disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said that victims were crushed by collapsed buildings while they were asleep.

Selina Sumbung, the organisation's chief, said the end of the search mission is accepted with a "heavy heart".

He said focus now will go towards relief efforts, however authorities will not stop villagers from continuing to dig through the ruins for their lost family members and friends.

Halimah Ariav Koboi, whose daughter is still missing, watched the last excavators at Balaroa in despair, knowing it was her final chance to finding her daughter. "But I think I have to accept that I may never find them", he said. There are four meters of soil here.

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While Indonesian workers searched, the disaster agency ordered independent foreign aid workers to leave the quake zone.

Around 100 people died on the island of Lombok August when an quake measuring 7 struck and was followed by aftershocks.

Recovered personal items are pictured outside a home in the quake and liquefaction-affected Balaroa neighbourhood in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, on October 11, 2018.

But it has accepted help from overseas to cope with the Sulawesi disaster. The agency has issued guidelines that say foreign aid workers can be in the field only with Indonesian partners.

Rescue teams are working with residents to try to identify where victims could be.

"This is the first time we encountered such difficulty in actually getting to do our work", team leader Arnaud Allibert told Reuters, adding they were leaving on Wednesday as their help was no longer needed.

Indonesia initially refused global help, saying the military had the situation in hand.

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