TSUNAMI LEAVES PATH OF DEATH IN IN­DONE­SIA

The Gulf Today - - ASIA -

THE TSUNAMI WAS TRIG­GERED BY A STRONG QUAKE THAT BROUGHT DOWN BUILD­INGS AND SENT LO­CALS FLEE­ING FOR HIGHER GROUND AS A CHURN­ING WALL OF WA­TER CRASHED INTO PALU, WHERE THERE WERE WIDE­SPREAD POWER BLACK­OUTS; HOS­PI­TALS WERE OVER­WHELMED BY THE IN­FLUX OF IN­JURED, WITH MANY PEO­PLE BE­ING TREATED IN THE OPEN

JAKARTA: The sun had just slipped be­hind the moun­tains, leav­ing a soft pink glow as the blue sea melted into the dark­en­ing hori­zon. It could have been a post­card from a trop­i­cal par­adise, ex­cept for the long white wave stretch­ing the width of the bay — get­ting larger and closer with each pass­ing sec­ond.

By the time the fast-mov­ing wall of froth­ing wa­ter slammed into the city of Palu off In­done­sia’s Su­lawesi is­land on Fri­day, it was 3 me­tres high.

TRAGIC VIEW

The tsunami, trig­gered by a mag­ni­tude 7.5 earth­quake, de­stroyed the idyl­lic scene in sec­onds, leav­ing hun­dreds dead. A video clip widely broad­cast on In­done­sian TV showed wa­ter swal­low­ing an en­tire row of build­ings and gush­ing into streets as on­look­ers ran shriek­ing in ter­ror. Pho­tos showed twisted tin and wood splin­ters loat­ing in the cof­fee-col­ored tor­rent along­side cars and mo­tor­bikes that had been tossed like toys. A shop­ping mall was re­duced to rub­ble.

There were also con­cerns over the where­abouts of hun­dreds of peo­ple pre­par­ing for a beach fes­ti­val that had been due to start on Fri­day even­ing, the disas­ter agency said.

Hos­pi­tals were over­whelmed by the in­lux of in­jured, with many peo­ple be­ing treated in the open air, while other sur­vivors helped to re­trieve the re­mains of those who died.

One man was seen car­ry­ing the muddy corpse of a small child.

The 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.

Im­ages on satur­day also showed bod­ies draped in crude blue tarps on roads near the beach, while oth­ers were laid out in rows on con­crete foun­da­tions.

MORE DAN­GER­OUS

Ex­perts said the long, nar­row bay run­ning into Palu, a city of 380,000, squeezed the tsunami into a tight space, likely mak­ing the waves more dan­ger­ous.

“Be­cause of the bay, all the wa­ter comes there and col­lects to­gether. And then it makes it higher,” said Na­zli Is­mail, a geo­physi­cist at the Univer­sity of Syiah Kuala in Banda Aceh on In­done­sia’s Su­ma­tra is­land, where a mag­ni­tude 9.1 earth­quake spawned a tsunami in 2004, killing 230,000 peo­ple in a dozen coun­tries.

Disas­ter agency spokesman Su­topo Purwo said the waves reached as high as 6 me­tres in at least one area, ac­cord­ing to a re­port re­layed by a man who called to say he sur­vived only by climb­ing and cling­ing to a tree. The cities of Dong­gala and Ma­muju were also hit, but they had not yet been reached. Roads were im­pass­able, cut off by de­bris and land­slides, and com­mu­ni­ca­tions were nearly im­pos­si­ble.

“We need heavy equip­ment for this evac­u­a­tion process,” Nu­groho said. “We also need to dou­ble up our res­cue team per­son­nel.”

Hos­pi­tals in Palu were swamped with pa­tients ly­ing on the ground hooked to drips. They were be­ing treated out­doors due to con­tin­u­ing strong af­ter shocks. many res­i­dents in the area were also sleep­ing out­side, too afraid to re­turn in­doors.

A mas­sive yel­low sus­pen­sion bridge cross­ing an es­tu­ary feed­ing into the bay was top­pled — either by the earth­quake or tsunami — and left ly­ing on its side in the wa­ter.

Is­mail said he was sur­prised that a tsunami was gen­er­ated off the coast of cen­tral Su­lawesi, which sits on a strike-slip fault, pro­duc­ing earth­quakes that typ­i­cally move in a hor­i­zon­tal mo­tion and do not usu­ally dis­place large amounts of wa­ter.

In con­trast, tem­blors oc­cur­ring where one tec­tonic plate is lodged be­neath an­other — called sub­duc­tion zones — can move large amounts of wa­ter ver­ti­cally when the strain forces one plate to pop up or dive down. The force can cre­ate dev­as­tat­ing tsunamis like the one in Su­ma­tra and off Japan’s north­east coast in 2011.

But Danny Hil­man Nataw­id­jaja, a ge­ol­o­gist with the In­done­sian In­sti­tute of Sci­ences, said the Su­lawesi event is more com­pli­cated. While it oc­curred on a strike-slip fault, he said the part that rup­tured was on a small seg­ment that can move in a ver­ti­cal mo­tion. He said that could have trig­gered the tsunami, which also could have been cre­ated by an un­der­wa­ter land­slide.

In­done­sia, a vast ar­chi­pel­ago of more than 17,000 is­lands, is prone to earth­quakes be­cause of its lo­ca­tion on the “Ring of Fire,” an arc of vol­ca­noes and fault lines in the Pa­cific Basin.

SUN­DAY, SEP­TEM­BER 30, 2018

A dam­aged house is seen af­ter an earth­quake hit Palu. As­so­ci­ated Press / AFP

Res­i­dents sal­vage be­long­ings in Palu.

Res­i­dents gather to look at a col­lapsed build­ing af­ter an earth­quake and tsunami hit Palu, Su­lawesi is­land, on Satur­day.

Res­i­dents carry a bag con­tain­ing the body of a tsunami vic­tim in Palu.

Res­i­dents carry a vic­tim af­ter an earth­quake and a tsunami hit Palu.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Bahrain

© PressReader. All rights reserved.