Indonesia may turn earthquake-hit zones into mass graves

Rescue teams say it could take five months to find all the victims

Drone footage shows devastation following Indonesia tsunami

The Indonesian government is considering turning areas devastated by the earthquake and tsunami into mass graves, as the death toll rises to 1,649.

Security minister Wiranto said victims' families are being consulted about the possibility of halting the search for bodies in the city of Palu even though at least 265 people remain missing.

Describing the dead as "martyrs", he said rescue efforts are being hampered because it is not safe to operate heavy equipment in the neighbourhoods of Balaroa and Petobo.

The 7.5-magnitude earthquake on 28 September liquefied the soft soil, swallowing up homes and potentially burying hundreds of victims.

President Joko Widodo has previously said all of the victims must be found but rescuers have estimated it may take four to five months.

It came as Buckingham Palace confirmed the Queen has made her own "private donation" to the fundraising appeal launched by the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC).

Meanwhile international aid crews continued to arrived in Palu to help local search teams.

In the crumpled neighbourhood of Balaroa, body bags were laid out in a row and mourners placed long pieces of white cloth, to represent a Muslim burial rite, inside.

Among them was 39-year-old Rudy Rahman, who said the bodies of his 18 and 16-year-old sons had been found. His youngest son remains missing.

"They were found in front of my brother's house opposite the mosque," Mr Rahman said. "They found them holding each other. These two brothers were hugging each other."

Many children were in the mosque at the time of the quake for Koran recitation. An assistant to the imam had said none survived.

In the village of Pewunu, excited children shouted "Red Cross! Red Cross!" as one of the aid group's medical teams set up a makeshift clinic in a field.

Volunteers laid out a big white tarpaulin on a stage in front of the village office, set a green desk on it and interviewed people about their needs as dozens milled around.

One villager said they survived by ransacking shops.

Doctors performed medical checks on elderly residents who emerged from tents and climbed the stage's stairs with canes or others supporting them.

People living in the camp said they had clean water and noodles but not much else.

"There were supplies, but these were looted. All along the roads toward here, they were looted by outsiders," said Bahamid Fawzi.

"All this while in this crisis, we don't have water, we don't have food," he said. "After that, we started ransacking the stores and the shops. Not because we're thieves, but because we really needed it. There's no water, no food - like it or not, we had to do it."

Arnaud Allibert, from the Pompiers Humanitaires Francais rescue organisation, said it could take four to five months to find all the bodies.

"If we see body parts sticking out, we're going to dig to get the body out ... It's a long-term job, but after that, they'll come with the heavy machinery," he told Reuters.

"The excavators can't take huge amounts of soil because there are bodies underneath, you have to scrape the earth carefully."

The United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs said more than £38 million is required to deliver "immediate, life-saving" aid.

UK international development secretary Penny Mordaunt has pledged £3m in aid to support immediate relief efforts on the ground.

Anyone wishing to make a donation to the appeal can do so via the DEC website, the 24-hour hotline on 0370 60 60 900, or donate over the counter at any high street bank or post office. A £5 donation can also be made by texting SUPPORT to 70000.

Additional reporting by PA, Reuters and Associated Press

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