Major quake and tsunami batter Indonesia

A tsunami caused deaths when it hit a small city on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi after a major quake, collapsing buildings and cutting off power, although the exact number of casualties was not clear
Major quake and tsunami batter Indonesia
A shopping center heavily damaged following an earthquake in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia - Photo:Antara Foto/BNBP/ via REUTERS
28/09/2018
19:21
Reuters
Jakarta
Tabita Diela, Gayatri Suroyo 4 MIN READ
-A +A

A tsunami caused deaths when it hit a small city on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi on Friday after a major quake, collapsing buildings and cutting off power, officials said, although the exact number of casualties was not clear.

The tsunami up to 2 meters (six feet) high struck beaches as dusk fell in Palu, a sleepy but growing tourist resort, and the nearby fishing town of Donggala, closest to the epicenter of the quake 27 km away, officials said.

“The earthquake and tsunami caused several casualties [...] while initial reports show that victims died in the rubble of a collapsing building,” National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told reporters. “The number of casualties and the full impact is still being calculated.”

Sutopo said the disaster caused a power outage that cut communications in Donggala and surrounding areas. The Communications Ministry is working to repair 276 electricity base stations.

Officials said aftershocks, the communications breakdown, and the power outage made it hard to coordinate rescue efforts.

More than 600,000 people live in Palu and Donggala.

“The 1.5- to two-meter tsunami has receded,” Dwikorita Karnawati, who heads Indonesia’s meteorology and geophysics agency, BMKG, said. “The situation is chaotic. People are running on the streets and buildings have collapsed. There is a ship washed ashore.”

BMKG had earlier issued a tsunami warning but lifted it within the hour.

The national search and rescue agency will deploy a large ship and helicopters to aid the operation, said agency chief Muhammad Syaugi, adding he had not been able to contact his team in Palu.

The armed forces and police will also provide troops and equipment to support the emergency response, officials said.

Palu, hit by a 6.2 magnitude quake in 2005 which killed one person, is a tourist resort at the end of a narrow bay famous for its beaches and water sports.

In 2004, an earthquake off the northern Indonesian island of Sumatra triggered a tsunami across the Indian Ocean, killing 226,000 people in 13 countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia.

The area was hit by a lighter quake earlier in the day, which destroyed some houses, killing one person and injuring at least 10 in Donggala, authorities said.

The U.S. Geological Survey put the magnitude of the second quake at a strong 7.5, after first saying it was 7.7.

“Aftershocks are still continuing,” Nugroho said.

“Communication has been crippled at this time, causing difficulties in coordination and reporting with the region.”

Indonesia sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire and is regularly hit by earthquakes.

A series of earthquakes in July and August killed nearly 500 people on the holiday island of Lombok, hundreds of kilometres southwest of Sulawesi.

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