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Indonesian quake leaves 5,000 people missing and almost 70,000 homeless

Samantha Acevedo, Senior

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An estimated 5,000 civilians are said to be missing in Indonesia, after a powerful earthquake hit the island of Sulawesi last week, on Sunday September 28, 2018.  

Many people that are reported missing are from the rural towns of Baleros and Petobo, where rivers of soil swept away neighborhoods and large buildings in the aftermath of a 7.5-magnitude earthquake, which triggered a tsunami.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, Representative of Indonesia’s Disaster Management Agency,  explained to the reporters in Jakarta on the Sunday of the tragedy that the confirmed death toll from the quake spiked to a tremendous total of 1,763, with 265 people missing in heart of Sulawesi’s largest city, Palu.

Although an enormous amount of civilians are still missing or unrecovered, a large majority of the deceased have been buried in mass graves.

Another 62,000 people have been left homeless by the natural disaster, Nugroho reported.

The representative of Indonesia calculated that around 5,000 people could still be missing in the cities of Baleroa and Petobo, which have been impacted the greatest by soil liquefaction – a result of an earthquake in which the soil becomes mixed with water, causing eruption into water currents that utterly destroy buildings.

Jonathan Stewart, a professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of California, Los Angeles, explained the process of soil liquefaction, “Liquefaction occurs when loose sandy soils with shallow groundwater are subjected to sudden loading such as shaking from an earthquake.”

Throughout the duration of the tragic natural disaster, a total of 1,000 houses in the towns affected by the quake were buried under immense rivers of soil.

Professor Stewart added on to his statement, observing the collapsing of buildings, “During the earthquake, water pressure is generated in the soil, which causes a dramatic loss of strength. The strength loss can be so great that the soil behaves almost like a liquid.”

While the death toll rises, 82,000 military, civilians and volunteers are searching in effort to find those 5,000 of the civilians still reported missing in Sulawesi.

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Indonesian quake leaves 5,000 people missing and almost 70,000 homeless