Officials said Saturday the death toll had climbed to 1,649 with more than a thousand maybe still missing in the seaside city on Sulawesi island, after the region was hit by a powerful quake and a wall of water.
Officially, Mr Nugroho said only 265 people are confirmed missing and 152 others still buried under mud and rubble, nine days after the magnitude 7.5 natural disaster and powerful tsunami hit Palu and its surrounding areas.
Indonesia has traditionally been reluctant to be seen as having to rely on outside help for natural disasters.
Hidayat was not on Sulawesi last on Friday when the 7.5 magnitude quake struck, triggering a phenomenon called soil liquefaction, which turns the ground into a roiling quagmire.
"Today, I prayed that they are in a better place".
A team of French rescue experts began hunting through a huge expanse of debris on the outskirts of the Indonesian city of Palu on Saturday, looking for hands, feet or any body parts of quake victims sticking out of the mud. Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim country.
Numerous dead were buried in mass graves because of the overwhelming amount of victims.
Aid is continuing to pour into hard-hit areas of Indonesia's Sulawesi island, which has been rattled by some 450 aftershocks since an quake and tsunami struck just over a week ago.
A series of earthquakes in July and August killed almost 500 people on the holiday island of Lombok, hundreds of kilometres southwest of Sulawesi.
The National Disaster Management Agency said that most bodies were retrieved from Palu, the provincial capital, followed by the districts of Donggala, Sigi, Parigi Mountong and a district of Pasang Kayu in nearby West Sulawesi province.More news: Tanushree Dutta Now Goes to Women Commission Against Nana Patekar & Others
"There are so many corpses around here", said Irwan, 37, a resident of Petobo, standing amidst the ruins. "I can't even count how many. These two brothers were hugging each other". Homes were sucked into the earth, torn apart and thrust hundreds of metres by the churning mud.
No one knows how many people are missing but it is at least in the hundreds, rescuers say.
Indonesian officials expect Palu's airport to re-open later in the day as the Indonesian military is bringing in more troops to assist with security and the search effort. Those left standing were so battered they were "not fit for use", Lakuaci said.
Sick of waiting for help, villagers themselves have been searching, Hasnah said. Officials have said they worry that a delay in burying the bodies could create a new health crisis.
Among them was 39-year-old Rudy Rahman, who said the bodies of his 18- and 16-year-old sons had been found. "Allahu Akbar", or God is greatest, responded the congregation. "After that, we started ransacking the stores and the shops.
The building survived the natural disaster, but we don't know how safe it is", said Satria Hamid, a spokesperson for the Transmart Carrefour supermarket.
Doctors have been flocking to help from other parts of Indonesia. A hospital ship is also due to arrive.
Rescue workers are pushing into outlying districts cut off for days.
The country continues to receive global assistance, but the destruction is not able to deliver it to anyone who needs it. Planes with humanitarian aid to Indonesia sent 11 countries.
Indonesian police say 92 people have been arrested for looting goods in areas devastated by an quake and tsunami in Central Sulawesi province.