Published: Sun, September 30, 2018
Worldwide | By Angelina Lucas

Tsunami Hits Indonesia, Leaving More Than 300 Dead

Tsunami Hits Indonesia, Leaving More Than 300 Dead

The tsunami, which followed a magnitude-7.5 quake, swept away buildings and unsuspecting victims caught in its path.

"People were still going about their activities on the beach and did not immediately run", said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for Indonesia's National Disaster Management Agency.

The tsunami was "about three meters high", Nugroho said.

Amateur footage shown by local TV stations showed waves crashing into houses along Palu's shoreline, scattering shipping containers and flooding into a mosque.

Photos confirmed by authorities showed bodies lined up on a street on Saturday, some in bags and some with their faces covered by clothes. Around 16,700 people were evacuated to 24 centres in Palu. The water smashed into buildings and the mosque. People are queuing up at roadside stalls, buying petrol in bottles to take into the affected area and to find missing loved ones.

"We felt a deep heartbreak, may God gives Anthonius the best place beside him, along with other victims of Donggala quake", said a spokesperson for Air Nav Indonesia, the country's aircraft navigation agency.

The geography of the city, which sits at the end of a long, narrow bay, could have magnified the size of the tsunami, it said.

Nugroho described the damage as "extensive", adding that thousands of houses, hospitals, shopping malls and hotels had collapsed, while a bridge had also been washed away. In addition, BBC says the main road to the city of Palu has been blocked because of a landslide and a key bridge is out of action.

The head of Indonesia's search and rescue agency Muhammad Syaugi told local online media Detik.com that he could hear people calling out from the collapsed eight-story Roa-Roa Hotel in Palu.

About 540 people were badly injured, it added.

She said communication was hard and the aid organisation had been struggling to get a proper ground assessment. He said many victims have not been accounted for.

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More than 600,000 people live in Palu and Donggala. "There are more than 300,000 people living there", the Red Cross said in a statement.

Nugroho said the quake intensity was much higher in the fishing town of Donggala, which was closer to the epicentre, and they expect the damage there to be much worse, but have not been able to establish communications.

Medical workers help patients outside a hospital after an quake and a tsunami hit Palu, on Sulawesi Island on September 29, 2018.

Indonesia's meteorological and geophysics agency BMKG issued a tsunami warning after the first quake, but lifted it 34 minutes later. Officials said they were rushing to reopen the airport to allow aid to come in.

Chief Security Minister Wiranto told TVOne the military has started sending in cargo planes from the capital, Jakarta, carrying relief aid.

AirNav spokesman Yohanes Harry Sirait said on Sunday that Palu airport is now also open to a limited number of commercial flights, but they will be operating under visual flight rules (VFR).

Anthonius Gunawan Agung, 21, was the only person left in the control tower at the Air Traffic Tower of Mutiara Sis Al Jufri Airport in Palu when the magnitude-7.5 quake struck the coastal city on Friday.

Indonesian president Joko Widodo has arrived in the region Sunday afternoon to see the devastation for himself.

Indonesia has been hit by a string of other deadly quakes including a devastating 9.1-magnitude natural disaster that struck off the coast of Sumatra in December 2004.

In August, a series of quakes killed more than 500 people on the tourist island of Lombok, hundreds of kilometres southwest of Sulawesi.

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