384 known dead in Palu as mag­ni­tude 7.5 earth­quake hits In­done­sia


A man sur­veys the dam­age fol­low­ing earth­quakes and a tsunami in Palu, Cen­tral Su­lawesi, In­done­sia, yes­ter­day. A tsunami swept away build­ings and killed large num­ber of peo­ple on the In­done­sian is­land of Su­lawesi, dump­ing vic­tims caught in its re­lent­less path across a dev­as­tated land­scape that res­cuers were strug­gling to reach, hin­dered by dam­aged roads and bro­ken com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

A TSUNAMI swept away build­ings and killed hun­dreds peo­ple on the cen­tral In­done­sian is­land of Su­lawesi, dump­ing vic­tims across a dev­as­tated land­scape that res­cuers were strug­gling to reach yes­ter­day, hin­dered by dam­aged roads and bro­ken com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

Disas­ter agency spokesper­son Su­topo Purwo Nu­groho said more than 384 peo­ple were known to have been killed in the hard-hit city of Palu alone.

The nearby city of Dong­gala and the town of Ma­muju were also rav­aged by the mag­ni­tude 7.5 earth­quake and tsunami, but had not yet been reached by aid due to dam­aged roads and dis­rupted tele­coms.

Nu­groho said “tens to hun­dreds” of peo­ple were tak­ing part in a beach fes­ti­val in Palu when the tsunami struck at dusk on Fri­day. Their fate was un­known.

In some places, the wa­ter rose as high as 6m.

“We got a re­port over the phone say­ing there was a guy who climbed a tree up to 6m high,” Nu­groho said.

Palu, which has more than 380 000 peo­ple, was strewn with de­bris from col­lapsed build­ings.

A mosque heav­ily dam­aged by the quake was half sub­merged and a shop­ping mall was re­duced to a crum­pled hulk.

A large bridge with yel­low arches col­lapsed. Bod­ies lay par­tially cov­ered by tar­pau­lins and a man car­ried a dead child through the wreck­age.

The city is built around a nar­row bay that ap­par­ently mag­ni­fied the force of the tsunami as wa­ter raced into the in­let.

In­done­sian TV showed a dra­matic smart­phone video of a pow­er­ful wave hit­ting Palu, with peo­ple scream­ing and run­ning in fear.

The wa­ter smashed into build­ings and the dam­aged mosque.

Hun­dreds of peo­ple were in­jured and hos­pi­tals, dam­aged by the quake, were over­whelmed.

Com­mu­ni­ca­tions was dif­fi­cult be­cause power and tele­coms were cut, ham­per­ing search and res­cue ef­forts.

“We hope there will be in­ter­na­tional satel­lites cross­ing over In­done­sia that can cap­ture im­ages and pro­vide them to us so we can use the im­ages to pre­pare hu­man­i­tar­ian aid,” Nu­groho said.

In­done­sia is a vast ar­chi­pel­ago of more than 17 000 is­lands that are home to 260 mil­lion peo­ple.

Roads and in­fra­struc­ture are poor in many ar­eas, mak­ing ac­cess dif­fi­cult in the best of con­di­tions.

The disas­ter agency said es­sen­tial air­craft can land at Palu’s air­port, though AirNav, which over­sees air­craft nav­i­ga­tion, said the run­way was cracked and the con­trol tower dam­aged.

AirNav said one of its air traf­fic con­trollers, 21, died in the quake af­ter stay­ing in the tower to en­sure a flight he had just cleared for de­par­ture was air­borne safely. It did.

More than half of the 560 in­mates in a Palu prison fled af­ter

its walls col­lapsed dur­ing the quake, said its war­den, Adhi Yan Ri­coh.

Ri­coh said there was no im­me­di­ate plan to search for the in­mates be­cause the prison staff and po­lice were con­sumed with the search and res­cue ef­fort.

In­done­sian Pres­i­dent Joko “Jokowi” Wi­dodo said on Fri­day night that he in­structed the se­cu­rity min­is­ter to co-or­di­nate the gov­ern­ment’s re­sponse to the disas­ter.

Jokowi also told re­porters in his home­town of Solo that he called on the coun­try’s mil­i­tary chief to help with search and res­cue ef­forts.

UN spokesper­son Stephane Du­jar­ric said of­fi­cials were in con­tact with In­done­sian au­thor­i­ties and “stood ready to pro­vide sup­port as re­quired.”

| AP

A tsunami wave hit shore in Palu, In­done­sia Su­lawesi Is­land, on Fri­day, when tens of thou­sands of peo­ple where tak­ing part in a beach fes­ti­val.

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