Saturday, 23 March, 2019

Indonesia Earthquake: Control tower hero sacrifices himself to save hundreds of lives

An earthquake and a tsunami hit Palu on Sulawesi island Image An earthquake and tsunami hit Palu on Sulawesi island on Friday
Leonard Rios | 30 September, 2018, 11:13

The Head of the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB), Willem Rampangilei, told reporters in Sulawesi late on Saturday the death toll from Palu had reached 420 people, according to news website Kompas.

Some people climbed trees to escape the tsunami and survived, he said.

Harrowing video showed waves of water bringing down several buildings and inundating a large mosque.

Communications "were totally crippled with no information" from Donggala, Nugroho said.

The tsunami was triggered by a strong natural disaster that brought down buildings and sent locals fleeing for higher ground as a churning wall of water crashed into Palu, where there were widespread power blackouts.

Dozens of people are thought to be trapped in the rubble of a hotel and shopping mall in the city of Palu.

At least 540 people had been badly injured as hospitals struggled to cope with the influx of casualties.

Photos confirmed by authorities showed bodies being lined up along the street on Saturday, some in bags and some with their faces covered with clothes.

"We hope there will be worldwide satellites crossing over Indonesia that can capture images and provide them to us so we can use the images to prepare humanitarian aid", Nugroho said.

Elsewhere, rescue teams confronted washed out roads and bridges as they tried to reach another city, Donggala, and other areas completely cut off by the quake and tsunami.

"We're now getting limited communications about the destruction in Palu city, but we have heard nothing from Donggala and this is extremely worrying", he said.

Chief Security Minister Wiranto told TVOne the military has started sending in cargo planes from the capital, Jakarta, carrying relief aid.

The runway at the city's airport has been left cracked and its control tower damaged but Mr Nugroho said essential aircraft can land through AirNav, which oversees aircraft navigation.

Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo tweeted late on Friday evening: "At sunset an quake hit Central Sulawesi and surroundings". It was reported as being 3 metres high in some areas and double that height elsewhere.

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The U.S. Geological Survey put the magnitude of the second quake at a strong 7.5, after first saying it was 7.7.

Indonesia has been hit by a string of other deadly quakes including a devastating 9.1-magnitude natural disaster that struck off the coast of Sumatra in December 2004.

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

Medical team members help patients outside a hospital after an natural disaster and a tsunami hit Palu.

Many bodies were found on Saturday along the shoreline of the Indonesian city of Palu on Sulawesi island which was hit by a major natural disaster and tsunami, as the death toll rose to 48 people and hundreds unaccounted for, authorities said, Reuters reported.

Indonesian authorities warned casualties in the provincial capital of Palu and the neighboring city of Donggala were "increasing" as news arrived from remote areas cut off by the 7.5-magnitude quake and 5-feet high tsunami.

A young Indonesian air traffic controller stayed on duty as the quake shook the building, to make sure one last aircraft escaped Friday's deadly disaster.

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.

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

Tsunami waves are believed to have been as high as six meters there. and they continued to hit the city even after the tsunami warning was lifted.

Palu's airport was reopened only for relief efforts and would remain closed until October 4 for commercial flights, Nugroho said.

The national search and rescue agency said it would deploy a large ship and helicopters to aid the operation. He said many victims have not been accounted for. "All we knew is that 24 guests were successfully evacuated and one has died", hotel owner Ko Jefry told Metro TV on Saturday night.

The Palu area was hit by a less powerful quake earlier Friday, which destroyed some houses, killed one person and injured at least 10 in Donggala, authorities said.

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