Earthquakes and tsunamis in Indonesia

Earthquakes and tsunamis in Indonesia

Many people were reported trapped in the rubble of buildings brought down in the 7.5-magnitude quake, which struck on Friday and triggered tsunami waves as high as six metres, agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told a news conference.

Dozens of people were reported to be still trapped in the rubble of a hotel and a mall in the city of Palu, which was hit by waves as high as six metres (20 feet) following the 7.5 magnitude quake.

The tsunami, which followed a magnitude-7.5 natural disaster, swept away buildings and unsuspecting victims caught in its path.

Disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said 384 people were killed in the hard-hit city of Palu alone.

It is feared the tsunami may have washed many of those on the coast out to sea.

Some people survived by climbing 6m trees, he added.

"We are having difficulty deploying heavy equipment to find victims under the rubble of buildings because numerous roads leading to Palu city are damaged", he was quoted by the Kompas newspaper as saying.

Photos confirmed by authorities showed bodies lined up along the street on Saturday, some in bags and some with their faces covered with clothes.

In Palu, about 17,000 people have been evacuated, scattered across centres in 24 locations. The water smashed into buildings and the mosque.

Aftershocks continued to rock the coastal city on Saturday.

Indonesia's Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) said in statement the energy released by Friday's massive quake was around 200 times the power of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in World War Two.

The city is built around a narrow bay that apparently magnified the force of the tsunami waters as they raced into the tight inlet.

Thousands of buildings have collapsed in Palu city, including the four-storey Antapura hospital, the eight-storey Roa-Roa hotel, a shopping mall and a bridge.

Bodies of some victims were found trapped under the rubble of collapsed buildings, he said, adding 540 people were injured and 29 missing.

Dozens of injured people were being treated in tents set up in the open.

With communications knocked out, relief officials have not been able to get any information from Donggala regency, an area north of Palu that is closer to the epicenter of the 7.5 magnitude quake.

"We felt a deep heartbreak, may God gives Anthonius the best place beside him, along with other victims of Donggala natural disaster", Air Nav spokesperson Yohanes Sirait said.

Electricity and communications have been cut off, making it hard to assess the damage in Palu and nearby fishing community of Donggala, Sutopo said.

"We have heard nothing from Donggala and this is extremely worrying". There are more than 300,000 people living there.

"This is already a tragedy, but it could get much worse".

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

The meteorological and geophysics agency BMKG issued a tsunami warning after the Friday quake but lifted it 34 minutes later, drawing criticism it had withdrawn it too quickly.

Commercial flights to Palu were going to be suspended until October 4, with only emergency and humanitarian flights allowed to land, but the Indonesian government announced later on Saturday the airport would reopen for commercial flights on Sunday.

The military has started sending in aircraft with aid from Jakarta and other cities, authorities said.

Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo tweeted late on Friday evening: "At sunset an natural disaster hit Central Sulawesi and surroundings".

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

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