Earthquake, tsunami hit Indonesia's Sulawesi island killing 48 in Palu; city airport closed after damage to runway
Indonesia sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire and is regularly hit by earthquakes.
Jakarta: Many bodies were found on Saturday along the shoreline of the Indonesian city of Palu on Sulawesi island which was hit by a major earthquake and tsunami, as the death toll rose to 48 people and hundreds unaccounted for, authorities said.
Strong aftershocks continued to rock the coastal city on Saturday morning after waves up to three metres (9.8 feet) high swept through the scenic tourist town, triggered by a 7.5 magnitude earthquake on land.
"Many bodies were found along the shoreline because of the tsunami, but the numbers are still unknown," said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman of Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency BNPB said in news briefing in Jakarta.
At least 48 people had been killed and the death toll was expected to rise, said Nugroho.
Hundreds of people who were preparing for a beach festival to celebrate Palu’s anniversary were unaccounted for, he said. The festival was due to start Friday night.
Amateur footage shown by local TV stations, which could not immediately be authenticated by Reuters, showed waters crashing into houses along Palu’s shoreline, scattering shipping containers and flooding into a mosque in the city.
Nugroho described the damage as "extensive" with thousands of houses, hospitals, shopping malls and hotels collapsed and a bridge washed away.
Bodies of victims trapped between the rubble of collapsing buildings were also found, he said, adding that more than 350 people were injured.
Dozens of injured people were being treated in makeshift medical tents set up outdoors, TV images showed.
Indonesia’s meteorological and geophysics agency BMKG issued a tsunami warning after the quake, 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.
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.
BNPB has not been able to get any information from the town of Donggala, closer to the epicentre of the quake 27 km (16 miles) away. More than 600,000 people live in Donggala and Palu.
Chief security minister Wiranto told TVOne the military had started sending in cargo planes from the capital Jakarta carrying relief aid.
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.
"We hope the airport can be reopened soon for flights carrying disaster relief and aid," said Yohannes Sirait of AirNav, the air traffic management agency.
Road access to Palu from the east and the south are disconnected, making relief efforts difficult, authorities said.
"There is no evacuation yet in the disaster area," Tezar Kodongan, a Palu resident, told Metro TV.
The Palu area was hit by a less powerful quake earlier on Friday, which destroyed some houses, killed one person and injured at least 10 in the fishing town of Donggala, closest to the epicentre, authorities said.
The US Geological Survey put the magnitude of the second quake at a strong 7.5, after first saying it was 7.7.
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 BNPB.
Singapore executes second man in 3 weeks over cannabis: Countries with the harshest drug penalties
Singapore has executed a second man in three weeks for cannabis trafficking, inviting the ire of human rights activists across the world. However, the city-state isn’t the only one with harsh laws on drug-related crimes. Countries like China, Malaysia and even Iran have zero tolerance for drugs
Which countries are skipping the G20 meet in Kashmir?
The third G20 Tourism Working Group meeting is being hosted by India in Srinagar on 22-24 May. This is J&K's first significant international event since losing its special status in 2019. While Saudi Arabia and Egypt have not yet registered, China and Turkey have chosen to skip the event
G7 Summit in Japan: Why is India invited and what role will it play?
India is a regular guest at the annual G7 summit of the world’s wealthiest democracies. At this year’s gathering in Hiroshima, the focus will be on Russia and China, both nations with whom New Delhi shares complex ties. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be playing the balancing act once again