Jakarta: At least 384 people were killed in Indonesia after two earthquakes, including a powerful 7.5 magnitude and tsunami struck country’s two central cities (Palu and Donggala) on Friday. National Agency for Disaster Management spokesperson Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said that 540 people were injured and 29 were still missing.
Thousands of homes, hospitals hotels and shopping malls were also destroyed. Strong aftershocks continued to rock Palu on Saturday. Notably, the two cities –Palu and Donggala are home to more than 600,000 people. Video on social media showed people screaming and fleeing in panic for safety. The country’s military had started sending cargo planes of relief aid from the capital.
“We have found corpses from the earthquake as well as bodies swept up by the tsunami,” Sutopo said. Furthermore he informed that the government was set to declare a state of emergency and stressed that the most important task was to restore power and communications to the region.
“There were other vulnerable coastal areas where communications were down. Officials had been unable to make contact with Donggala, a fishing community near Palu that was also reported to have been hit by the tsunami”, the BBC reported.
The Indonesian National Board for Disaster Management spokesperson said that telecommunications and air-transport experts arrived at the airport in Palu (the city most affected by the earthquake along with Donggala) and are working to repair some of the damaged electrical equipment.
In a video message posted online, Komang Adi Sujendra, the Director of Undata Hospital in Palu, said that the area had no electricity, that phone and Internet service had been disrupted and that road access was limited. He sought help from the public.
The earthquake hit just off central Sulawesi at a depth of 10 km on Friday, the US Geological Survey said. A tsunami warning was issued, but lifted within the hour. A magnitude-6.1 quake earlier on Friday in the same region killed at least one person and led to the collapse of a number of buildings.
The disaster followed on from the earthquakes and aftershocks on Lombok island where 557 people died and nearly 400,000 were displaced between July 29 and August 19. The country’s deadliest earthquake with a magnitude of around 9.1 struck off the tip of Sumatra island in 2014, triggering a tsunami that killed nearly 280,000 people in Indonesia and other Indian Ocean nations.
(With inputs from agencies)