Residents look for their belongings amid the debris of destroyed houses in Palu, Central Sulawesi, after a tsunami struck the area. Image Credit: AFP


■ Indonesia's disaster agency says death toll for earthquake and tsunami has climbed to 832.

■ Death toll inn Indonesia from earthquake and tsunami could "reach into the thousands", nation's vice president says.

■ More than 420 died in Palu alone, officials said Saturday as they began to take stock of the devastation and count the dead.

■ The second badly hit city, Donggala, remained inaccessible after a main bridge collapsed. .

■ Rescue teams confronted washed-out roads and bridges as they tried to reach another city, Donggala, and other areas completely cut off by the quake and tsunami.

■ The tally could rise significantly from the 7.5-magnitude quake and the tsunami that churned over parts of Sulawesi, about 800 miles northwest of Jakarta.

Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla, in an interview with local media, said the death toll could reach well into the thousands.  

 Indonesian officials also may face another reckoning over why the tsunami alerts were pulled even as a disaster was roaring ashore, raising questions about the level of monitoring and post-quake analysis in a nation along some of the world’s most active fault lines.

■ Some 1,500 people were reportedly injured and about 400,000 residents were displaced after their homes were destroyed.

 Indonesian officials and aid agencies struggled with battered communications, destroyed roads and landslides.

■ Aid deliveries by sea have been a challenge, as Palu’s port was badly damaged by the tsunami.

■ Partially-covered bodies are seen on the ground near the shore, on the morning after 3 metres tsunami waves slammed into the city. 

The magnitude 7.5 quake off the Indonesian island of Sulawesi generated a tsunami as high as 1.5 metres that slammed into Palu, a city of 350,000 people. AFP

■ Dramatic video footage filmed from the top floor of a parking ramp in Palu, nearly 80km from the quake's epicentre, showed waves of water bring down several buildings 

 The shallow 7.5-magnitude tremor was more powerful than a series of quakes that killed hundreds on the Indonesian island of Lombok in July and August. 

 Palu had been hit by rapid series of aftershocks, said Dwikorita Karnawati, who heads Indonesia's meteorology and geophysics agency (BMKG).

■ Rescue officials will now have to deal with the impact of the second major earthquake in Indonesia in two months. In August, a 6.9-magnitude earthquake and strong aftershocks hit the island of Lombok, south of Sulawesi, killing more than 450 people. 

■ Palu’s airport was closed Saturday, its runway badly cracked from the quake. Rescue workers have resorted to long drives through blocked roads amid the constant threat of landslides.

■ The city is built around a narrow bay, which may have magnified the force of the tsunami surge as it pushed through the inlet.


World Vision, a relief agency, planned to send assessment teams to Palu to reach the city Sunday.

But the organization still had many of its staff members in Lombok responding to the destruction and widespread loss of homes there.

“Our own staff have been affected and their own homes damaged. We are deploying in teams, but at this stage communications with Palu, on the island of Sulawesi, is extremely challenging, so we, like others, are grappling with understanding the full impact of this disaster,” said Doseba Sinay, the aid agency’s national director in Indonesia

Yenni Suryani, country manager for Catholic Relief Services in Indonesia, said getting access to both cities is a “huge problem.”

“With the airport damaged, emergency responders and local aid groups are having to drive over land 10 to 12 hours,” Suryani said. Catholic Relief Services’ partners were trying to drive to Palu, she said, but only made it halfway there and had to resume travel in the morning.

“Those long hours on the road are going to mean hours lost getting assistance to people who need it in the next few days,” she added.

On Saturday, scores lay dead after a powerful quake and tsunami struck central Indonesia, an AFP photographer at the scene said, as rescuers scrambled to reach the stricken region.

Photographs from Palu, home to around 350,000 people on the coast of Sulawesi island, showed partially covered bodies on the ground near the shore, the morning after tsunami waves 1.5 metres (five feet) high slammed into the city.

The tsunami was triggered by a strong quake that brought down several buildings and sent locals fleeing for higher ground as a churning wall of water crashed into Palu. 

"The 1.5- to two-metre tsunami has receded," Karnawati told Reuters. "It ended. The situation is chaotic, people are running on the streets and buildings collapsed. There is a ship washed ashore," she added.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman of IndonesiaÕs disaster mitigation agency BNPB, holds a news conference to brief on the latest situation after a strong quake and tsunami hit at Sulawesi island, at the BNPB headquarters in Jakarta, Indonesia, September 29, 2018. Antara Foto/Aprillio Akbar via Reuters

BMKG had earlier issued a tsunami warning, but lifted it within the hour.

Amateur footage shown by local TV stations, which could not immediately be confirmed by Reuters, showed waters crashing into houses along Palu's shoreline.

The shallow 7.5-magnitude tremor more powerful than a series of quakes that killed hundreds on the Indonesian island of Lombok in July and August. Indonesia is one of the most disaster-prone nations on earth.  AFP 

The national search and rescue agency will deploy a large ship and helicopters to aid with the operation, said agency chief Muhammad Syaugi, adding that he had not been able to contact his team in Palu.

Palu, hit by a 6.2 magnitude quake in 2005 which killed one person, is a tourist resort at the end of a narrow bay famous for its beaches and water sports.

Also read: Five deadliest tsunamis in the past century

In 2004, an earthquake off the northern Indonesian island of Sumatra triggered a tsunami across the Indian Ocean, killing 226,000 people in 13 countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia.

Medics forced to treat victims in open-air makeshift facilities following the killer quake and tsunami  AFP

Earlier on Friday, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said it was having difficulty reaching some authorities in Palu and the fishing town of Donggala, closest to the epicentre of the quake 80 km away at a shallow 10 km underground.

Residents sit on the ground for safety reason after an earthquake hit at outside of Mutiara Sis Al Jufri airport in Palu, Indonesia Sulawesi Island, September 29, 2018. Reuters


Airport closed

Palu airport was closed. The area was hit by a lighter quake earlier in the day, which destroyed some houses, killing one person and injuring at least 10 in Donggala, authorities said.

Search and rescue teams have been dispatched to the hard-hit areas . AFP

Some people took to Twitter saying they could not contact loved ones. "My family in Palu is unreachable," Twitter user @noyvionella said.

A patient is evacuated from a hospital following a strong earthquake in Poso, central Sulawesi, Indonesia. AP

The U.S. Geological Survey put the magnitude of the second quake at a strong 7.5, after first saying it was 7.7.

More than 600,000 people live in Donggala and Palu.

"The (second) quake was felt very strongly, we expect more damage and more victims," Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, BNPB spokesman said.

Indonesia sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire and is regularly hit by earthquakes.

A series of earthquakes in July and August killed nearly 500 people on the holiday island of Lombok, southwest of Sulawesi. 

Indonesia has been hit by a string of other deadly quakes including a devastating 9.1 magnitude tremor that struck off the coast of Sumatra in 2004.

That quake triggered a tsunami that killed 220,000 throughout the region, including 168,000 in Indonesia.

The disaster was the world's third biggest quake since 1900, and lifted the ocean floor in some places by 15 metres.

Tsunami facts

A once-exotic word that has now entered the everyday lexicon, a tsunami refers to a shock of water that spreads through the sea, usually after a sub-sea floor quake.

A section of seabed is thrust up or driven down by violent movement of the Earth's crust.

The rift displaces vast quantities of water that move as waves, able to cover enormous distances, sometimes at the speed of a jet plane.

'Harbour wave'

The word "tsunami" comes from the Japanese words for "harbour" and "wave".
At their point of generation, tsunamis have a relatively small wave height, with peaks far apart.

As the waves approach the shore they are compressed by the shelving of the sea floor, reducing the distance between the peaks and vastly increasing the height.

To those on the shore, the first sign of something amiss can be the retreat of the sea, which is followed by the arrival of large waves.

"The sea was driven back, and its waters flowed away to such an extent that the deep seabed was laid bare and many kinds of sea creatures could be seen," wrote Roman historian Ammianus Marcellus, awed at a tsunami that struck the then-thriving port of Alexandria in 365 AD.

"Huge masses of water flowed back when least expected, and now overwhelmed and killed many thousands of people.... Some great ships were hurled by the fury of the waves onto the rooftops, and others were thrown up to two miles (three kilometres) from the shore."

Several factors determine the height and destructiveness of a tsunami.
They include the size of the quake, the volume of displaced water, the topography of the sea floor as the waves race to the coast and whether there are natural obstacles that dampen the shock.

Destruction of protective mangroves and coral reefs and the building of homes or hotels on exposed beaches are fingered as leading causes of high death tolls from tsunamis.


Large quakes are the main drivers of tsunamis, but the phenomenon can also be sparked by other cataclysmic events, such as volcanic eruptions and even landslides.

In 1883, a volcano shattered the Pacific island of Krakatoa, causing a blast so loud that it could be heard 4,500 kilometres away, followed by a tsunami that killed some 30,000 people.

The tsunami of December 2004 in the Indian Ocean was caused by a monstrous 9.1 magnitude earthquake off the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

It released energy equivalent to 23,000 of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS).

Some 220,000 people in 11 nations were killed, many of them thousands of kilometres from the epicentre.

The Pacific Ocean is particularly prone to earthquakes and therefore to tsunamis.

But research has found that, over the millennia, tsunamis have occurred in many parts of the world, including the Atlantic and Mediterranean.

A global monitoring network, overseen by the UN, has been set in place to alert areas at risk.

UAE sends condolences
Abu Dhabi: President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan has sent a cable of condolences to Joko Widodo, President of Indonesia, for the victims of the earthquake, which struck the island of Sulawesi and resulted in several deaths and injuries.

His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, sent similar cables to the Indonesian President. --WAM