DUSK-HOUR HORROR RIPS SULAWESI
NEARLY 400 KILLED 17,000 EVACUATED
PALU: Nearly 400 people were killed when a powerful quake sent a tsunami barrelling into the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, officials said on Saturday, as hospitals struggled to cope with hundreds of injured and rescuers scrambled to reach the stricken region.
UAE President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan has sent a cable of condolences to President Joko Widodo of Indonesia, for the victims of the earthquake.
Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, sent similar cables to the Indonesian President.
BMKG, Indonesia’s geophysics agency, lifted a tsunami warning 34 minutes after it was first issued following the earthquake. It faced criticism on Saturday on social media, with many questioning if the tsunami warning was lifted too soon.
The national disaster agency put the official death toll so far at 384, all of them in the tsunami-struck city of Palu, but warned the toll was likely to rise.
Some 540 people were badly injured, it added.
Widodo said the military was being called in to the disaster-struck region to help search-and-rescue teams get to victims and find bodies. There were also concerns over the whereabouts of hundreds of people preparing for a beach festival that had been due to start Friday evening, the disaster agency said.
Hospitals were overwhelmed by the influx of injured, with many people being treated in the open
air, while other survivors helped to retrieve the remains of those who died.
The 1.5 metre-high tsunami was triggered by a strong quake that brought down buildings and sent locals leeing for higher ground as a churning wall of water crashed into Palu, where there were widespread power blackouts.
Dramatic video footage captured from the top loor of a parking ramp in Palu, nearly 80km from the quake’s epicentre, showed waves bring down several buildings and inundate a large mosque.
About 17,000 people had been evacuated, the disaster agency said, and that igure is expected to rise.
The shallow 7.5 magnitude tremor was more powerful than a series of quakes that killed hundreds on the Indonesian island of Lombok in July and August.
The massive tremors were felt hundreds of kilometres away and there has been little word about casualties in Donggala, a region north of Palu where at least one person was reported dead in Friday’s quakes.
The quake hit just off central Sulawesi at a depth of 10 kilometres just before 1100 GMT -- early evening in Indonesia -- the US Geological Survey said.
Such shallow quakes tend to be more destructive. Pictures supplied by the disaster agency showed a badly damaged shopping mall in Palu where at least one loor had collapsed onto the storey below, while other photographs showed major damage to buildings and large cracks across pavements.
Homes and a local hotel were lattened while a landmark city bridge was destroyed. Video from the scene showed the double-arched, yellow bridge had collapsed with its two metal arches twisted as cars bobbed in the water below.
A reporter on the scene saw widespread damage some 50m inland.
A damaged shopping centre in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, on Saturday. Below: The beach in Palu was the worst affected in the tsunami.