The quake and tsunami caused a major power outage that cut communications around (Reuters).
Nearly 400 people have been killed after a powerful earthquake triggered a tsunami that hit Indonesia’s central Sulawesi island on Friday 28.
The national disaster agency put the current death toll at 384, all of them reported in the tsunami-struck city of Palu, but warned the number was likely to rise as rescue efforts continued.
Hospitals in the city 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.
Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for Indonesia’s disaster agency, said many people “were still doing their activities on the beach and did not immediately run” when the tsunami threat rose in Palu on Friday.
“The tsunami didn’t come by itself, it dragged cars, logs, houses, it hit everything on land,” said Nugroho.
Some people climbed six-metre trees to escape the tsunami and survived, he said before adding the tsunami struck at a speed of 800 kph, destroying buildings and infrastructure.
The damage in the area was “extensive”, he said, with thousands of houses, hospitals, shopping malls and hotels collapsed, a bridge washed away and the main highway to Palu cut off due to a landslide.
Strong aftershocks continued to rock the coastal city on Saturday morning, he said.
The quake and tsunami caused a major power outage that cut communications around Palu, and on Saturday authorities were still having difficulties coordinating rescue efforts.
Road access to Palu from the east and the south were also disconnected.
The city’s airport remained closed after its runway and air traffic control tower was damaged in the quake but officials said they were preparing to reopen to allow aid to come in.
Officials say death toll from quake, tsunami on Palu may rise (AP).
Indonesian President Joko Widodo said the military was being called into the disaster-struck region to help search-and-rescue teams get to victims and find bodies.
“I’ve already instructed the coordinating minister for political and security affairs to coordinate all resources including the national disaster agency.
Indonesia’s meteorological and geophysics agency BMKG issued a tsunami warning after the earthquake, but lifted it 34 minutes later.
The agency was widely criticised for not informing a tsunami had hit Palu on Saturday, though officials said waves had come within the time the warning was issued.
Indonesia sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire and is regularly hit by earthquakes.
In August, a series of major quakes killed over 500 people in the tourist island of Lombok and destroyed dozens of villages along its northern coast.
Palu was hit by tsunami in 1927 and 1968, according to the disaster agency.