At least 384 people have reportedly died and hundreds were injured in a powerful earthquake, followed by a tsunami, that struck Central Sulawesi on Friday evening (28/09). (Photo courtesy of BNPB)

Quake, Tsunami Kill at Least 384 in Central Sulawesi, Rescue Operations Continue


SEPTEMBER 29, 2018

Jakarta. At least 384 people have reportedly died and hundreds were injured in a powerful earthquake, followed by a tsunami, that struck Central Sulawesi on Friday evening (28/09).

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said on Saturday that a tsunami of up to 3 meters high in places struck residential areas along the coast in Palu and Donggala, less than 30 minutes after the main tremor.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) issued a tsunami warning shortly after the magnitude-7.4 quake, which occurred offshore at a depth of 10 kilometers, about 26 kilometers north of Donggala. The warning was lifted about 40 minutes later.

"As of 1 p.m. Jakarta time, at least 384 people had died in Palu alone. However, the BNPB is still awaiting further data," BNPB spokesman Sutopo Nugroho said in a statement on Saturday, adding that at least 540 people have been injured, while 29 have been reported missing.

He said rescuers are currently in the affected areas, looking for victims.

"It is expected that anything between dozens and even hundreds of people may still be under the ruins of collapsed buildings," Sutopo said. He added that in addition to hundreds of houses, a hospital, hotel and shopping centers were also heavily damaged in the quake.

"Ponulele Bridge between West Donggala and East Donggala subdistricts was swept away by the tsunami. A landslide has blocked the Trans-Palu-Poso-Makassar road," Sutopo said.

"The fate of dozens, or even hundreds, of participants, mostly dancers, at the venue of the Pesona Palu Nomoni Festival is still unknown," he added.

A widespread electricity blackout due to the powerful earthquake has also resulted in the disruption of telecommunications in the affected areas.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has meanwhile ordered all relevant institutions to respond to the disaster.

Chief Security Minister Wiranto, who is coordinating the relief efforts, said early on Saturday morning that the government would send assistance by air, despite a damaged runway at Mutiara Sis Al-Jufrie Airport in Palu.

"Of the 2,500-meter-long runway, 500 meters are cracked… however, it is still possible for military cargo planes to land," he said.

State-owned flight navigation service AirNav issued a notification on Friday evening that the airport would be closed for 24 hours, until 7.20 p.m. on Saturday.

The airport was only reopened for search and rescue operations and to receive emergency and humanitarian aid, the agency said on Saturday.

The BNPB reported that the air traffic control building at the airport had been reduced to rubble and that most of the navigation equipment, including the radar sytstem, are no longer operational.

An air traffic controller, who insisted on successfully guiding a commercial flight during takeoff before trying to save himself, died when the building collapsed on him.

Several ministries have sent logistical supplies, including tents, matrasses, instant food and sanitation equipment, to the province from Halim Perdanakusuma Air Force Base in East Jakarta on Saturday morning.

Military personnel from other parts of Sulawesi have been arriving in the area by road since Friday evening.

The Ministry of Transportation confirmed that Taipa Port and the Mamboro Bus Terminal in Palu were also badly damaged.

The agency also confirmed that a passenger ship had been left stranded about 70 meters onshore after it was washed ashore by the tsunami.

The electricity supply to nearly 10 percent of the affected areas was restored by early Saturday morning.