October 1, 2018 – The death toll from a magnitude 7.5 earthquake and subsequent tsunamis that hit central Indonesia’s Sulawesi Island on Friday has risen to over 400 with at least 356 people injured, the country’s disaster agency said Saturday.
National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told a press conference that the tsunamis engulfed a broad area of the western part of the state, destroying several thousand structures in the coastal area.
He added that the death toll may increase further, saying the figures were only from the Central Sulawesi provincial capital of Palu, one of the two worst-affected areas.
The government has begun full-fledged relief work. The military, national police, search and rescue agency have dispatched personnel to search for missing people and support evacuees.
According to the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, the damage caused by the tsunami waves was particularly significant in the coastal areas of Palu and Donggala.
In Palu, a large bridge which was a symbol of the city was completely destroyed. People including hospital patients have fled outdoors amid the aftershocks.
The quake struck at 6:02 p.m. Friday at a depth of only 10 kilometers, centered on land near the town of Donggala — about 2,500 km northeast of capital Jakarta — triggering tsunami waves up to 1.5 meters high in some areas.
According to the spokesman, blackouts were also ongoing with only two of the seven power stations serving Palu and its surrounding areas operating and many electricity poles down. Communications were also cut as some telecommunication towers were damaged.
“We badly need a temporary hospital and medical support, such as beds, medicines, medical teams, blankets, etc.,” Komang Adi Sujendra, director at the Central Sulawesi Regional Hospital, said earlier in a video distributed through his social media accounts.
He added that his medical team has had to work in blackout conditions in Palu.
Palu resident Morits Kodongan told the Jakarta-based private television network Metro TV that “residents need gasoline because it has started to run out.”
The Jakarta-based Meteorological, Climatology and Geophysics Agency confirmed that a tsunami occurred in the town of Mamuju in West Sulawesi, about 240 km away from the epicenter, while a 1.5-meter wave was recorded in Palu.
Video footage showed the tsunamis arriving to the sound of people screaming, “Allahu Akbar (God is Great) Allahu Akbar.”
The quake followed another with a magnitude of 6.1 that occurred at the same place three hours earlier. Collapsing homes caused by the first quake killed at least one person and injured 10 others, according to local authorities.
Palu’s Mutiara Sis al-Jufri Airport was temporarily closed for commercial flights after its air traffic control tower was damaged by the quake. Saturday morning, only a helicopter could land to bring humanitarian assistance.
Indonesia sits in one of the most active seismic regions in the world, the Pacific Ring of Fire — an area in which a large number of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur.