After a devastating earthquake and tsunami hit the Indonesian island of Sulawesi on Friday morning, the bodies of 34 young Bible students participating in a Christian bible camp were found in the Jonooge Church Training Center on Tuesday.
According to Indonesian Red Cross spokesperson Aulia Arriani, more bodies are likely to be recovered as the remote region awaits machinery to lift the concrete wreckage caused by 20-feet waves. 86 students had initially been reported missing from the Church.
The students were likely killed in a mudslide that engulfed the church, caused by the 7.5 magnitude earthquake and 170 aftershocks.
The bodies of some of the victims are being buried in a mass grave near Palu, Sulawesi, the most affected city.
The current death toll, measured by a disaster agency, estimates that 1,234 people have been killed and 50,000 displaced.
As fuel, food and water run out, roads are blocked by rubble and the search continues for thousands trapped under debris, the toll is likely to increase.
The coastal scenes have been described as widespread disaster with “bodies everywhere.”
Islam is the majority religion in Indonesia and its islands, with Christianity as its second-largest religion. Its 24 million Christians represent 10% of the country’s population. 19% of Sulawesi island residents are Christians, mostly concentrated on the northern peninsula in Central Sulawesi.
The ethnic Tana Toraja population began converting from their indigenous religion to Christianity through a Netherlands colonial mission since Indonesia’s independence in 1945.
Sulawesi Muslim-Christian violence has become prevalent in recent years, with the most serious violence between 1999 and 2001.