A mass burial of earthquake and tsunami victims began in Indonesia Monday as the death toll climbed to 844 and the need for equipment to dig for survivors grew increasingly desperate.The toll is largely from the city of Palu and is expected to rise as areas cut off by the damage are reached. The magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck at dusk Friday and spawned a tsunami said to have been as high as 20 feet in places.Local Army Commander Tiopan Aritonang said that 545 bodies would be brought from one hospital alone. The grave being dug in Palu will be 33 feet by 330 feet and can be enlarged if needed, said Willem Rampangilei, chief of Indonesia's National Disaster Mitigation Agency."This must be done as soon as possible for health and religious reasons," he said. Indonesia is majority Muslim, and religious custom calls for burials soon after death, typically within one day.
Local military spokesman Mohammad Thorir said the area adjacent to a public cemetery can hold 1,000 bodies.All of the victims, coming from local hospitals, have been photographed to help families locate where their relatives were buried. Video footage showed residents walking from body bag to body bag, opening the top to check to see if they could identify faces.Military and commercial aircraft were delivering some aid and supplies to the region. But there was a desperate need for heavy equipment to reach possible survivors buried in collapsed buildings, including an eight-story hotel in Palu where voices were heard in the rubble.A 25-year-old woman was found alive Sunday evening in the ruins of the Roa-Roa Hotel, according to the National Search and Rescue Agency, which released photos of the her lying on a stretcher covered in a blanket. A number of other survivors were still being found and a few were being pulled from buildings in different locations.