'When the wave came, I lost her': Indonesia quake-tsunami survivors search for loved ones

'When the wave came, I lost her': Indonesia quake-tsunami survivors search for loved ones

PALU, Indonesia: In Balaroa, a Palu suburb once home to a housing complex, flattened trees, shards of concrete, twisted metal roofing, door frames and mangled furniture stretched out into the distance.

People sifted through the wreckage left by the quake-tsunami disaster that struck Sulawesi on Friday (Sep 28).

One survivor, Adi, said he was hugging his wife by the beach when the tsunami struck. He has no idea where she is now, or whether she is alive.

"When the wave came, I lost her," he said. "I was carried about 50 metres. I couldn't hold anything," he said.

READ: Indonesia quake: 34 students killed at church, 52 missing, says Red Cross

READ: Narrow escape: The Singaporean man who survived the Indonesia quake-tsunami

Others have centred their search for loved ones around open-air morgues, where the dead lay in the sun - waiting to be claimed and named.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it was working to reunite families who had become separated during the disaster and was providing "forensic services" to those carrying out the grim task of identifying victims.

Over in Boya, a report by ABC Australia recounted how Andi Rainaldi and his wife spent days searching for seven family members, including their young son.

Rainaldi told ABC that the earthquakes and the ensuing tsunami engulfed his entire village, with not a single house left standing. He and his wife eventually found their son’s body at the local mosque, which had been turned into a temporary morgue.

"I couldn't even identify my son by his face, only by his clothes … We found him physically unrecognisable.

READ: 'My guardian angel at Palu': Pilot pays tribute to Indonesia air traffic controller hailed as quake hero

READ: Quake-hit Indonesia buries dead in mass grave

"I'm so sad, devastated. He was my only son, my only child. And he's just a little boy. I miss him so much. It's very hard to lose him. We'll bury them all as soon as possible," Rainaldi was quoted as saying.

Many survivors have spent the last days desperately searching for loved ones while dealing with the trauma of the disaster. 

Twitter user Mbak Ana has appealed to National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho for help in locating her brother Syifak. He went missing at around 6pm local time on Friday after the earthquake, and she has not heard from him since.

Friday's 7.5-magnitude earthquake triggered tsunami waves as high as six metres (20 feet) that smashed into the city's beachfront. 

At least 844 people are already known to have died in the disaster, and officials say that the toll is likely to rise - perhaps into the thousands

Scientists said the tsunami that ravaged the city of Palu was outsized compared to the earthquake that spawned it, but factors - including a long, narrow bay - conspired to create monster waves.  

Source: Agencies/CNA/zl(mn)