PALU, Indonesia, The official death toll from earthquakes and a tsunami that hit Indonesia's Sulawesi island rose to 1,944 on Monday, as schools and government offices began reopening in hard-hit areas.

More than 74,000 were still displaced after the September 28 double disaster, said Willem Rampangilei, chairman of the National Disaster Management Agency.

Government offices and schools reopened in Palu, the capital of Central Sulawesi province where most of the victims were found.

Hundreds of civil servants returned to work and to clean up their offices, said Mohammad Hidayat, a local government secretary.

"We have appealed to all civil servants who are able to return to work and take part in the clean-up," he said.

Authorities were still verifying reports that about 5,000 people from Petobo and Balaroa - two villages in Palu where homes were sucked into a sinkhole and mud during the disaster - were missing.

"The 5,000 figure is based on information from village chiefs. Exactly how many, we don't know," agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told a news conference in Jakarta.

"It has to be verified. It could be that they have sought refuge elsewhere," he added.

Rampangilei said the government had set an October 11 target for the completion of the search and rescue operation.

"We'll decided later if the search will be extended beyond October 11," he said.

Aid has been pouring into the disaster-hit region.

Aircraft from countries such Australia, Singapore, Qatar and India have delivered supplies including tents, water treatment facilities and other urgently needed goods.

Shops also began reopening on Sunday, with a major retail chain, Matahari, offering a 50-per-cent discount on fashion products.

The Sulawesi quakes came after more than 550 people were killed and more than 400,000 were displaced in August in a series of powerful quakes that devastated the Indonesian resort island of Lombok.

Source: NAM News Network

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