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7.5 Magnitude Earthquake Hits Sulawesi, Triggers Tsunami

Almost 400 people have died after a Tsunami hit two cities in Indonesia.

The 3m tsunami was triggered by a magnitude 7.5 earthquake and smashed into Palu and Donggala on Sulawesi Island on Friday.

Waves swept away buildings and destroyed a bridge, with rescuers struggling to reach victims after being hindered by damaged infrastucture.

Disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said 384 people died in the hard-hit city of Palu alone, Indonesian TV reported.

Earlier, he said the fate of “tens to hundreds” of people involved in a beach festival in Palu when the tsunami struck was unknown.

Palu, which has a population of more than 380,000, was strewn with debris from collapsed buildings.

The city is built around a narrow bay which apparently magnified the force of the tsunami water as it entered.

In the nearby city of Donggala, home to nearly 300,000 people, a large bridge with yellow arches that spanned a coastal river collapsed.

Local news showed a smartphone video of a powerful wave hitting Palu, with people screaming and running in fear.

Search and rescue efforts have been hampered by damaged power lines.

The earthquake struck at a depth of 10km near central Sulawesi on Friday, the US Geological Survey said.

Indonesia’s president said on Friday night that he had instructed the security minister to co-ordinate the government’s response to the quake and tsunami.

Joko “Jokowi” Widodo also told reporters in his hometown of Solo that he had called on the country’s military chief to help with search and rescue efforts.

United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric said UN officials were in contact with Indonesian authorities and “stand ready to provide support as required”.

Nugroho said essential aircraft can land at Palu airport’s though AirNav, which oversees aircraft navigation, although the runway is cracked and the control tower damaged.

AirNav said one of its air traffic controllers, aged 21, died in the quake after staying in the tower to ensure a flight he had just cleared for departure got airborne safely.

Indonesia is prone to earthquakes because of its location on the Ring of Fire, an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin.

On August 5, a powerful quake on the island of Lombok killed 505 people. Another series of strong quakes in mid-August killed at least a dozen on Lombok and neighbouring Sumbawa island.

Source: Huffington Post

Photo: AFP

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