Devastating Indonesia tsunami, quake kill hundreds

The Ramayana department store in Palu Central Sulawesi is severely damaged after a 7.7-magnitude earthquake struck on Friday afternoon

People could still be heard calling out from the eight-story Roa-Roa Hotel which toppled as Friday's twin disasters swept through the hard-hit city of Palu on the island of Sulawesi, said Muhammad Syaugi, the head of Indonesia's search and rescue agency.

A young woman was pulled alive from the rubble of the Roa Roa Hotel, the news website Detik.com reported. "All we knew is that 24 guests were successfully evacuated and one has died", hotel owner Ko Jefry told Metro TV on Saturday night. Hundreds of people gathered at the mall searching for loved ones. Indonesian vice-president Jusuf Kalla said the final number of dead could be in the "thousands".

In 2004, an natural disaster off the northern Indonesian island of Sumatra triggered a tsunami across the Indian Ocean, killing 226,000 people in 13 countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia.

"We're now getting limited communications about the destruction in Palu city, but we have heard nothing from Donggala and this is extremely worrying". There are more than 300,000 people living there.

Nugroho said the quake intensity was much higher in the fishing town of Donggala, which was closer to the epicentre, and they expect the damage there to be much worse, but have not been able to establish communications.

A massive yellow suspension bridge crossing an estuary feeding into the bay was toppled - either by the natural disaster or tsunami.

Strong aftershocks continued to rock the coastal city on Saturday morning following the massive 7.5 magnitude natural disaster on Friday, which triggered the tsunami.

Indonesia's meteorological and geophysics agency BMKG issued a tsunami warning after the quake, but lifted it 34 minutes later.

"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.

People including dancers were still busy on the beach in Palu (population: 335,000), preparing for a festival, and were caught when waves up to 3m in height swept in.

Communications "were totally crippled with no information" from Donggala, he added.

The death toll of anearthquake and tsunami that hit two Indonesia cities has reached at least 384 as rescuers battle to reach victims in devastated areas.

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Amateur footage shown by TV stations showed waters crashing into houses along Palu's shoreline, scattering shipping containers and flooding into a mosque in the city.

"The intensity of the natural disaster in Donggala is higher than in Palu, so we suspect we'll see a high number of victims in Donggala, although Palu has a larger population than Donggala", Sutopo said.

Video on social media shows people screaming and fleeing in panic.

Dozens of injured people were being treated in makeshift medical tents set up outdoors.

Photographs from the city on the coast of Sulawesi island showed bodies being lined up along the street, some in bags and others with their faces covered with clothes.

President Joko Widodo is scheduled to visit evacuation centres in Palu on Sunday.

I offer deepest condolences.

Other disastrous results include the escaping of over half of the 560 inmates who were contained in prison in Palu.

The military has started sending in cargo planes with aid from Jakarta and other cities, authorities said, but evacuees still badly needed food and other basic necessities.

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.

"Canada is deeply saddened by the loss of life and awful destruction wrought by the powerful quake and tsunami that hit Indonesia yesterday", Global Affairs Canada said in a statement.

On Aug. 5, a powerful quake on the Indonesian island of Lombok killed 505 people, most of whom died in collapsing buildings.

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