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[UPDATE] Death toll from Indonesian quake, tsunami reaches 420

Indonesian vice president Jusuf Kalla says the toll could climb based on previous disasters.

Medical team members help patients outside a hospital after an earthquake and a tsunami hit Palu, on Sulawesi island on 29 September 2018. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - The death toll from a deadly earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia rose to 420 on Sunday morning.

Indonesian vice president Jusuf Kalla says the toll could climb based on previous disasters.

There are concerns as residents in the island of Sulawesi are struggling to find food and water.

Local media is reporting the death toll had increased to 420 with a further 540 seriously injured.

Aid continues to enter into the coastal city of Palu, while the Indonesian military has been deployed.

Dozens of people were reported to be trapped in the rubble of a hotel and a mall in the city of Palu, which was hit by waves as high as six metres following the 7.5 magnitude earthquake on Friday.

A young woman was pulled alive from the rubble of the Roa Roa Hotel, the news website Detik.com reported. Hotel owner Ko Jefry told Metro TV on Saturday that up to 60 people were believed trapped. Hundreds of people gathered at the mall searching for loved ones.

“We’ve got information from people that their relatives are still inside, so we’re focusing on that, especially to find survivors,” a rescuer identified as Yusuf, working at the ruins of the mall, told Metro TV.

With confirmed deaths only from Palu, authorities are bracing for much worse as reports filter in from outlying areas, in particular, Donggala, a region of 300,000 people north of Palu and closer to the epicentre of the quake.

A disaster official said the tsunami travelled across the open sea at speeds of 800kph before striking the shore and casualties could have been caused along a 300km stretch of coast, north and south of Palu.

QUESTIONS ABOUT WARNINGS

Indonesia is all too familiar with deadly earthquakes and tsunamis. In 2004, a quake off Sumatra island triggered a tsunami across the Indian Ocean, killing 226,000 people in 13 countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia.
Questions are sure to be asked why warning systems set up around the country after that disaster appear to have failed on Friday.

The meteorological and geophysics agency BMKG issued a tsunami warning after the Friday quake but lifted it 34 minutes later, drawing widespread criticism it had withdrawn it too quickly. But officials said they estimated the waves had hit while the warning was in force.

Hundreds of people had gathered for a festival on Palu’s beach when the wall of water smashed onshore at dusk on Friday, sweeping many people to their deaths.

Video footage showed trees, buildings and a communications tower being swept through a rural landscape by a landslide caused by liquification of the soil, according BNPB’s Nugroho.

In other footage on social media, a man on the upper floor of a building could be heard shouting warnings of the approaching tsunami to people on the street below moments before the wave crashed ashore. Reuters was not able to authenticate the footage.

Additional reporting by Reuters.

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)