384 Killed In Indonesia's Sulawesi Island From Earthquakes And Tsunami

| September 29 , 2018 , 13:49 IST

At least 384 people have been killed from an earthquake and tsunami that hit the Sulawesi island of Indonesia on Friday, officials reported on Saturday. The death toll is expected to rise further.

While the first earthquake in the Palu area led to the death of 1 person, injury to 10 and destruction of some houses in the fishing town of Donggala, the second earthquake, estimated to be of 7.5 magnitude by the US Geological Survey resulted in more damage and destruction.

The 7.5 magnitude earthquake on land triggered a series of aftershocks that continued to hit the coastal city of Palu on Sulawesi island on Saturday morning, where many of the bodies were found.

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Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman of Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency BNPB in a news briefing said, “Many bodies were found along the shoreline because of the tsunami, but the numbers are still unknown.”

He described the damage as 'extensive' with thousands of houses, hospitals, shopping malls and hotels collapsing. The city's airport remained closed after the runway and air traffic tower were damaged from the earthquake, but officials are preparing to reopen it to allow easy flow of aid.

Although Indonesia’s meteorological and geophysics agency BMKG had issued a tsunami warning after the initial earthquake on Friday, it was lifted 34 minutes later. A tsunami on Saturday hit the city of Palu, resulting in criticism for BMKG for not issuing a warning.

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The earthquake and tsunami caused a major power outage around Palu, hampering coordination of rescue efforts as the communications were cut down. The BNPB was not able to contact people from the town of Donggala closer to the epicentre of the earthquake 27 km away due to the fall in communications. Road access to Palu has also been disconnected from the east and south, creating further difficulties in relief efforts.

Last month, 91 people were killed and more than 100 others injured when a powerful 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck the Lombok resort island of Indonesia.

An archipelago of thousands of islands, Indonesia is located on the 'Pacific Ring of Fire', which is a seismic activity hotspot frequently hit by earthquakes although most of them are harmless.