HUNDREDS DIE IN TSUNAMI
NEARLY 400 people were killed when a powerful quake sent a tsunami barrelling into the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, officials said.
Hospitals struggled to cope with hundreds of injured and rescuers scrambled to reach the stricken region.
The national disaster agency put the official death toll so far at 384, all in the tsunami-struck city of Palu, but warned the toll is likely to rise.
Spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said four hospitals in Palu reported hundreds were also injured.
He said the fate of “tens to hundreds” at a beach festival in Palu when the tsunami struck was unknown. “Many victims” were unaccounted for.
The coast has been devastated in central Sulawesi where the 3m-high tsunami, triggered by a magnitude 7.5 earthquake, smashed into two cities and other settlements.
Mr Nugroho said the tsunami hit Palu, the capital of central Sulawesi province, as well as the smaller city of Donggala and several other coastal settlements.
Palu, a city of more than 380,000, was strewn with debris from collapsed buildings.
The city is built on a narrow bay that magnified the force of the tsunami waters as they raced into the tight inlet.
Photographs from Palu showed partially covered bodies on the ground near the shore, the morning after tsunami waves hit the city.
Hospitals were overwhelmed by the injured, with many being treated outside, while other survivors helped to retrieve the remains of those who died. One man was seen carrying the muddy corpse of a child.
In Donggala, home to about 300,000, a large bridge with arches that spanned a coastal river had collapsed.
Communications with the area are difficult because power and telecommunications are cut, hampering search and rescue efforts.
Indonesia’s geophysics agency confirmed the tsunami occurred after the agency originally called off its tsunami warning.
Indonesian TV showed a smartphone video of a wave hitting Palu, with people screaming and running. The footage shows small restaurants near the Palu Grand Mall swept away.
“I just ran when I saw the waves hitting homes on the coastline,” Palu resident Rusidanto said.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo called on the country’s military chief to help with the search and rescue.