India expresses deep sympathies to tsunami-hit Indonesia, assures all help

Hospital patients after a powerful quake rocked the island of Sulawesi and triggered a 3-meter tsunami that swept away houses

Hospital patients after a powerful quake rocked the island of Sulawesi and triggered a 3-meter tsunami that swept away houses

Vice President Jusuf Kalla said the death toll could rise to thousands.

Dozens remain missing, some thought to be trapped in the debris of collapsed buildings in the city of Palu.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo arrived on the island of Sulawesi on Sunday to take stock of the situation.

"When the (tsunami) threat arose yesterday, people were still doing their activities on the beach and did not immediately run and they became victims", agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said on Saturday.

Experts said the long, narrow bay running into Palu, a city of 380,000, squeezed the tsunami into a tight space, likely making the waves more unsafe. "Electricity is out all over Palu", he said.

A tsunami triggered by a powerful 7.5 magnitude quake off the coast of the Indonesian island of Sulawesi on Friday evening crashed into least two cities, including the popular tourist resort of Palu, killing nearly 400 people dead and injuring some 540 others.

A man looks for his belongings amid the debris of his destroyed house in Palu after a strong natural disaster and tsunami struck the area. The water smashed into buildings and a large mosque already damaged by the natural disaster. "All national potential will be deployed, and tomorrow morning we will deploy Hercules and helicopters to provide assistance in tsunami-affected areas".

According to CNN, there's concern that some of the more rural areas affected by the natural disaster and tsunami may not receive help in time, as Palu airport has been shut down, and the closest usable airport is at least a 10 hour drive from the city.

The city's main hospital was damaged in the quake, with TV footage showing dozens of injured people being treated outside in makeshift medical tents.

"The 1.5-to two-metre tsunami has receded", Indonesia's meteorology agency, BMKG, said. The city was celebrating its 40th anniversary when the quake and tsunami hit.

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Many people were on the beach in Palu, preparing for a festival, and were caught when waves up to 3m (10ft) in height swept in.

"I can still hear the voices of the survivors screaming for help while inspecting the compound", he told local online news portal Detik.com, adding there could be 50 people trapped inside. "Avoid the slopes of hills".

Authorities believe that an undersea avalanche caused by the quake created tsunami waves that made landfall on the north-western part of the island, with the town of Palu worst hit.

Indonesian men drag a shopping trolley with goods looted from a tsunami-devastated shopping mall in Palu.

The geography of Palu Harbour meant that waves of up to six metres smashed the town, and footage from Indonesia's Red Cross shows just some of the devastation, with buildings destroyed and streets lined with mud.

Nina, a 23-year-old woman who goes by one name, was working at a laundry service shop not far from the beach when the quake hit.

The shaking of the 7.5-magnitude tremor was "severe" and the likely damage following the quake was considered "moderate to heavy", the USGS said.

United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric said United Nations officials were in contact with Indonesian authorities and "stand ready to provide support as required".

Indonesia, a vast archipelago of more than 17,000 islands, is prone to earthquakes because of its location on the "Ring of Fire", an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin.

This latest quake comes after a series of earthquakes in July and August killed at least 623 people and destroyed hundreds of thousands of buildings on the Indonesian island of Lombok, which is situated hundreds of kilometres south-west of Sulawesi.

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