Dozens dead after earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia

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The powerful earthquake and tsunami that hit Indonesia have claimed dozens of victims, a disaster official said, as rescuers raced to reach the region.

Dawn revealed a devastated coastline in Sulawesi, where the 10-foot high tsunami triggered by a 7.5-magnitude earthquake on Friday smashed into two cities and several settlements.

Disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told a press conference that four hospitals in the city of Palu had reported 48 dead and hundreds of injured. He said “many victims” were still to be accounted for.

Palu, which is the capital of Central Sulawesi province and a city of more than 380,000 people, was strewn with debris from collapsed buildings.

A department store building is seen heavily damaged
A department store building was heavily damaged (AP Photo/Rifki)

In the nearby city of Donggala, a large bridge spanning a coastal river had collapsed.

Indonesian TV showed a smartphone video of a powerful wave hitting Palu, with people screaming and running in fear. The water smashed into buildings and a large mosque already damaged by the earthquake.

Communications with the area are difficult because power and telecommunications are cut, hampering search and rescue efforts.

Patients are treated on the hallway of a hospital
Patients are treated on the hallway of a hospital (AP Photo/Yoanes Litha)

On Friday night, Indonesia’s president said he had instructed the security minister to coordinate the government’s response to the earthquake and tsunami.

Joko 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.

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

The ruin of a mosque badly damaged by the earthquake and tsunami
The ruin of a mosque badly damaged by the earthquake and tsunami (AP Photo/Rifki)

In December 2004, a massive magnitude 9.1 earthquake off Sumatra in western Indonesia triggered a tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries.

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