More than 400 people dead after a tsunami hits Indonesia, death toll expected to rise

BAY ISMOYO/AFP/Getty ImagesA man looks for his belongings amid the debris of his destroyed house in Palu in Central Sulawesi on September 29, 2018, after a strong earthquake and tsunami struck the area.

  • A six-metre high tsunami hit the Indonesia island of Sulawesi following a magnitude-7.5 earthquake.
  • The Head of the National Disaster Management Agency says the death toll has risen to 420.
  • An entire city of 300,000 people has still not made contact with officials. It was closer to the epicentre.

More than 400 people are dead after a tsunami hit the Indonesia island of Sulawesi on Saturday.

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

The wave came after a tsunami warning was lifted. The nearest tidal sensor was 300 kilometres south of Palu, the capital city of Central Sulawesi, and it only detected a six-centimetre wave.

The waves which hit Palu were as high as six meters.

The Head of the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB), Willem Rampangilei, told local reporters on Saturday that the death toll from Palu alone had reached 420 people, according to news website Kompas.

“We are having difficulty deploying heavy equipment to find victims under the rubble of buildings because many of the roads leading to Palu city are damaged.”

The Red Cross is concerned for residents living in an area called Donggala, which is closer to the epicenter of the quake. Authorities have not been able to make contact with them since the tsunami.

“We’re now getting limited communications about the destruction in Palu city, but we have heard nothing from Donggala and this is extremely worrying,” Red Cross said.

“There are more than 300,000 people living there.”

Tsunami expert Abdul Muhari, who heads a tsunami research team within the Indonesian government, told the ABC the death toll for the Palu Bay area would likely reach 1,000.

“If we assume they have just worked in 20 per cent of the search and rescue area and already have confirmed almost 400 casualties, then we could expect a figure probably higher than 1,000,” he said.

This morning, dozens of people were reportedly still trapped in the rubble of a hotel in Palu.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports more than half of the 560 inmates in Palu’s prison escaped after its walls collapsed during the earthquake on Friday.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says the Australian Government is not aware of any Australians affected by the earthquake but was continuing to make enquiries with local authorities.

“The Australian Government has not received a request for assistance at this time,” a spokesperson said.

“Australia stands ready to assist the Government of Indonesia, if international assistance is required.”

In August, a series of major quakes hit the Indonesian island of Lombok, killing more than 500 people.

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