At least 48 killed in Indonesia tsunami and earthquake, ‘many bodies’ found

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Jakarta: Indonesia’s central Sulawesi hit by powerful earthquake and tsunami which has claimed dozens of victims on Saturday, the rescuers raced to reach the region and saw numerous bodies in a hard-hit city.

During a press conference, Disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said that four hospitals in the central Sulawesi city of Palu have reported 48 dead and hundreds of injured. He said “many victims” are still to be accounted for.

Media reports revealed a devastated coastline in central Sulawesi where the 3-meter high (10 foot) tsunami triggered by a magnitude 7.5 earthquake Friday smashed into two cities and several settlements.

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

The city is built around a narrow bay that apparently magnified the force of the tsunami waters as they raced into the tight inlet. In the nearby city of Donggala, a large bridge with yellow arches that spanned a coastal river had collapsed.

A local news channel of Indonesia showed a smartphone video of a powerful wave hitting Palu at dusk, with people screaming and running in fear. The water smashed into buildings and a large mosque already damaged by the earthquake.

The power and telecommunications are already cut in the areas which have made the communications difficult in affected areas, which is hampering search and rescue efforts.

Nugroho has said that essential aircraft can land at Palu airport’s though AirNav, which oversees aircraft navigation, said the runway is cracked and the control tower damaged.

Indonesia’s president on Friday night said he had instructed the security minister to coordinate the government’s response to a quake and tsunami that hit central Sulawesi.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said UN 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.