Earthquake causes 3-metre tsunami, kills at least 48 in Indonesia’s Sulawesi island

3-metre tsunami hits Indonesian island of Palu after powerful earthquake
WATCH ABOVE: A powerful earthquake rocked the Indonesian island of Palu on Friday, triggering a 10-foot-tall tsunami that an official said swept away houses in at least two cities.

Indonesia’s disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho says four hospitals in the earthquake and tsunami-stricken city of Palu in Sulawesi have reported 48 deaths.

He told a news conference Saturday that hospitals in the city are also treating several hundred injured and many victims still remain uncounted.

A tsunami triggered by a magnitude 7.5 earthquake on Friday smashed into two cities and several settlements on Sulawesi island at dusk.

READ MORE: Indonesian teenager rescued after 49 days lost at sea

Indonesia’s president says he instructed the security minister to co-ordinate the government’s response to a quake and tsunami that hit central Sulawesi.

President Joko Widodo also told reporters in his hometown of Solo late Friday that he had called on the country’s military chief to work on search and rescue efforts and evacuations as needed.

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The tsunami triggered by a magnitude 7.5 earthquake smashed into two cities and several settlements on Sulawesi island.

The national disaster agency said Saturday there were “many victims.” Images from the area showed victims’ bodies, debris from flattened buildings and puddles of seawater remained.

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Authorities were having difficulties coordinating rescue efforts as the 7.5 magnitude quake caused a power outage that cut communications around Palu and the nearby fishing town of Donggala, the closest to the epicenter of the quake 27 km away.

Disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said the tsunami caused by the earthquake hit Palu as well as the smaller city of Donggala and several other coastal settlements.

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 that collapsed under the force.

WATCH: A 7.5-magnitude earthquake in Indonesia has destroyed homes and buildings, and sparked a tsunami. As Mike Armstrong reports, huge waves swamped a coastal community.
Powerful earthquakes trigger tsunami in Indonesia
Powerful earthquakes trigger tsunami in Indonesia
“The cut to telecommunications and darkness are hampering efforts to obtain information,” he said. “All national potential will be deployed, and tomorrow morning we will deploy Hercules and helicopters to provide assistance in tsunami-affected areas.”The region was rocked by a magnitude 7.5 earthquake Friday and numerous strong aftershocks, including one of magnitude 6.7. An earlier magnitude 6.1 quake in central Sulawsi killed several people, injured 10 and damaged dozens of houses.The chief of the meteorology and geophysics agency, Dwikorita Karnawati, said the tsunami waves were up to three metres high. She said the tsunami warning triggered by the biggest quake, in place for about half an hour, was lifted after the tsunami was over.

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Sutopo said the military was deploying troops to Palu and Donggala and the national police were also mobilizing to help the emergency response, as well as personnel from the search-and-rescue and disaster agencies.“People are encouraged to remain vigilant,” Sutopo said. “It is better not to be in a house or building because the potential for aftershocks can be dangerous. People are encouraged to gather in safe areas. Avoid the slopes of hills.”Palu’s airport halted operations for 24 hours due to earthquake damage, according to AirNav, which oversees airline traffic in Indonesia.WATCH: Two tales of survival: Indonesian teen survives 7 weeks at sea; Indian sailor rescued from yacht
Two tales of survival: Indonesian teen survives 7 weeks at sea; Indian sailor rescued from yacht
Two tales of survival: Indonesian teen survives 7 weeks at sea; Indian sailor rescued from yacht
Mirza Arisam, a resident of Kendari, the capital of neighbouring Southeast Sulawesi, said his uncle and his family of five, including three children, were on vacation in Palu and he has been unable to contact them since the tsunami hit.After the 7.5 quake struck, television footage showed people running into the streets. Women and children wailed hysterically in a video distributed by the disaster agency, which also released a photo showing a heavily damaged department store.“It was so strong. The strongest I ever felt. We all ran out of buildings,” said Yanti, a 40-year-old housewife in Donggala who goes by a single name.

READ MORE: 6.5 magnitude earthquake rattles Indonesia’s Lombok coast

“All the things in my house were swaying,” another Donggala resident, Mohammad Fikri, said of the earlier 6.1 quake.U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said U.N. officials were in contact with Indonesian authorities and “stand ready to provide support as required.”Indonesia is prone to earthquakes because of its location on the “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin.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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