Scores of people were killed after a powerful quake triggered tsunami that smashed into the Indonesian island of Sulawesi on Friday. Rescuers were scrambling to reach the stricken region on Saturday as dawn revealed the scale of devastation wrought by the waves, which reached up to 10 feet high. Pictures at the scene in Palu – home to around 350,000 on the coast of Sulawesi island – showed partially covered bodies on the ground near the shore. A man carried a dead child through the wreckage. Disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said the tsunami hit Palu, the capital of central Sulawesi province and a growing tourist resort, as well as the smaller city of Donggala and several other coastal settlements He told a press conference that four hospitals in Palu had reported 48 dead and hundreds of injured. He said “many victims” were still to be accounted for. Indonesia tsunami in pictures: Big waves leave Sulawesi coastline in ruins “Bodies of victims were found in several places, because they were hit by the rubble of collapsing buildings or swept away by the tsunami … but we are still collecting data,” Sutopo said earlier on Saturday. There were also fears for hundreds of police and attendees at a beach festival that was taking place around the time the tsunami struck. Around 250 officers who were securing the event were missing, local news site Kompas.com reported. “Suddenly the first earthquake occurred, followed by panic and some people fled from the beach,” one witness called Adrian told the website. “After that, we saw water suddenly crashing, and finally there was a big panic. Not having time to escape, there was a bigger earthquake, and suddenly the water rose.” Palu, built around a narrow bay that apparently magnified the force of the tsunami waters, was strewn with debris from collapsed buildings. In the nearby city of Donggala a large bridge spanning a coastal river had collapsed. Indonesian TV showed a smartphone video of a powerful wave hitting Palu, with people screaming and running in fear. The water smashed into buildings and a large mosque that collapsed under the force. Houses were swept away and families were reported missing, Nugroho said, adding that communications and power to the area were disrupted. “The cut to telecommunications and darkness are hampering efforts to obtain information,” he said. “All national potential will be deployed.” Helicopters had been deployed on Saturday morning to assess the damage and provide assistance. The region was rocked by a magnitude 7.5 earthquake on Friday and numerous strong aftershocks, including one of magnitude 6.7. An earlier magnitude 6.1 quake in central Sulawsi killed several people, injured 10 and damaged dozens of houses. Medical team members help patients outside a hospital after an earthquake and a tsunami hit Palu Credit: AFP The chief of the meteorology and geophysics agency, Dwikorita Karnawati, said the tsunami waves were up to 10 feet high, while the disaster agency said the waves reached a maximum height of five feet. She said the tsunami warning triggered by the biggest quake, in place for about half an hour, was lifted after the tsunami was over. “The situation is chaotic. People are running on the streets and buildings have collapsed. There is a ship washed ashore,” she told Reuters. Sutopo said the military was deploying troops to Palu and Donggala and the national police were also mobilising to help the emergency response, as well as personnel from the search-and-rescue and disaster agencies. Indonesian soldiers load emergency supplies into a Hercules military plane before heading to Palu at Halim Perdanakusuma military base in Jakarta Credit: Reuters “People are encouraged to remain vigilant,” Sutopo said. “It is better not to be in a house or building because the potential for aftershocks can be dangerous. People are encouraged to gather in safe areas. Avoid the slopes of hills.” Chief security minister Wiranto told TVOne the military had started sending in cargo planes from the capital Jakarta carrying relief aid. The city’s airport remained closed after its runway and air traffic control tower was damaged in the quake but officials said they were preparing to reopen to allow aid to come in. “We hope the airport can be reopened soon for flights carrying disaster relief and aid,” said Yohannes Sirait of AirNav, the air traffic management agency. Dozens of injured people were being treated in makeshift medical tents set up outdoors, TV images showed. Palu’s airport halted operations for 24 hours due to earthquake damage, according to AirNav, which oversees airline traffic in Indonesia. Mirza Arisam, a resident of Kendari, the capital of neighboring Southeast Sulawesi, said his uncle and his family of five, including three children, were on holiday in Palu and he has been unable to contact them since the tsunami hit. Residents examine the tsunami aftermath in Palu on Saturday Credit: AFP Some people took to Twitter saying they could not contact loved ones. “My family in Palu is unreachable,” Twitter user @noyvionella said. Metro TV played amateur footage that showed large pools of water remaining from the tsunami, large cracks in roads and buildings badly damaged. Tezar Kodongan, a resident of Palu who took one of the videos, told the TV station some of the city landmarks were badly damaged. “There is no evacuation yet in the disaster area,” Kodongan added. Residents make their way along a street full of debris after an earthquake and tsunami hit Palu Credit: AFP After the 7.5 quake struck, television footage showed people running into the streets. Women and children wailed hysterically in a video distributed by the disaster agency, which also released a photo showing a heavily damaged department store. “It was so strong. The strongest I ever felt. We all ran out of buildings,” said Yanti, a 40-year-old housewife in Donggala who goes by a single name. “All the things in my house were swaying,” another Donggala resident, Mohammad Fikri, said of the earlier 6.1 quake. UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said U.N. officials were in contact with Indonesian authorities and “stand ready to provide support as required.” Jembatan Palu IV destroyed by the earthquake in #Palu, Central Sulawesi.#gempa#tsunamipic.twitter.com/Q8PKwvE5Hj— Matthew Lanier (@PakMamat) September 28, 2018 Indonesia is prone to earthquakes because of its location on the “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin. In December 2004, a massive magnitude 9.1 earthquake off Sumatra in western Indonesia triggered a tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries.
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