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Death toll in Indonesia tsunami-quake soars to 384

The 7.5 magnitude quake struck on Saturday followed by the tsunami, which then resulted in a series of waves in the city of Palu on Sulawesi Island.

A woman cries as people look at the damages after an earthquake and a tsunami hit Palu, on Sulawesi island on 29 September 2018. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - The national disaster agency in Indonesia has confirmed the death toll has risen to 384 following an earthquake and a tsunami.

Earlier reports suggested that 48 people were killed. The 7.5 magnitude quake struck on Saturday followed by the tsunami, which then resulted in a series of waves in the city of Palu on Sulawesi Island.

Indonesia's disaster emergency services say many bodies have been found along the shoreline. The rescue efforts have been affected by power outages, and communication as well as rescue coordination.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman of Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency BNPB, said hundreds of people who were preparing for a beach festival to celebrate Palu’s anniversary were unaccounted for.

Amateur footage shown by local TV stations, which could not immediately be authenticated by Reuters, showed waters crashing into houses along Palu’s shoreline, scattering shipping containers and flooding into a mosque in the city.

Nugroho described the damage as “extensive” with thousands of houses, hospitals, shopping malls and hotels collapsed and a bridge washed away.

Bodies of victims trapped between the rubble of collapsing buildings were also found, he said, adding that more than 350 people were injured.

Dozens of injured people were being treated in makeshift medical tents set up outdoors, TV images showed.

Indonesia’s meteorological and geophysics agency BMKG issued a tsunami warning after the quake, but lifted it 34 minutes later. The agency was widely criticised for not informing a tsunami had hit Palu on Saturday, though officials said waves had come within the time the warning was issued.

Chief security minister Wiranto told TVOne the military had started sending in cargo planes from the capital Jakarta carrying relief aid.

The city’s airport remained closed after its runway and air traffic control tower was damaged in the quake but officials said they were preparing to reopen to allow aid to come in.

The Palu area was hit by a less powerful quake earlier on Friday, which destroyed some houses, killed one person and injured at least 10 in the fishing town of Donggala, closest to the epicenter, authorities said.

Indonesia sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire and is regularly hit by earthquakes. In August, a series of major quakes killed over 500 people in the tourist island of Lombok and destroyed dozens of villages along its northern coast.

Additional reporting by Reuters.

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)

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