Some children return to school in Indonesia quake city hoping to see friends

Children attend a class at a camp for displaced people following the earthquake and tsunami in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia October 8, 2018. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside

PALU, Indonesia (Reuters) – Children in the Indonesian city of Palu began returning to school on Monday to tidy up their classrooms and hopefully see their friends 10 days after a major earthquake and tsunami struck.

The 7.5 magnitude quake on Sept. 28 brought down many buildings in the small city on Sulawesi island, 1,500 km (30 miles) northeast of Jakarta, 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 rose to 1,948 and bodies are still being recovered. No one knows how many people are missing, especially in the areas hit by liquefaction, but it could be as high as 5,000, the national disaster agency said.

At one state high school, teenagers dressed in gray 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.

Across the city, nine schools were destroyed, 22 teachers were killed and 14 were missing, the disaster agency said, adding that 140 tents had been set up for classes.

More Stories