JAKARTA, Indonesia — Helicopters are dropping disinfectant on neighborhoods in the earthquake- and tsunami-stricken city of Palu to reduce disease risks from the thousands of victims believed buried in obliterated communities, Indonesia’s disaster agency said Thursday.

The agency said that 1.7 square miles of land and nearly 3,500 homes succumbed to liquefaction in central Sulawesi when the Sept. 28 earthquake turned soft soil to mud.

Spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said in a statement the disinfectant is necessary for three devastated neighborhoods because of the large number of victims not recovered by the search and rescue effort that ended on Oct. 12.

“Bombing and spraying of disinfectants is an effort to anticipate the spread of diseases through vectors such as flies, cockroaches, or mice,” he said.

Some ground spraying was also carried out, but much of the land is too unstable to do that comprehensively.

The magnitude 7.4 quake and high tsunami waves, which devastated miles of coastline, killed 2,103 people. Disaster officials say another 5,000 people from neighborhoods swallowed by liquefaction remain unaccounted for.

The Indonesian Red Cross said Thursday there is a massive effort underway to distribute tons of relief supplies such as tarpaulins, clean drinking water and other items.

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