Almost 400 dead as quake-triggered tsunami leaves a sea of debris

AFP  Getty Images

AFP Getty Images

A powerful tremor near the Indonesian island of Sulawesi and a resulting tsunami have killed almost 400 people and injures scores of others - and the death toll could still climb.

Indonesia's disaster agency said at least 384 people had been killed, but the number is expected to rise.

Ms Redstone said the areas hit by the quake and tsunami were densely populated with poor and vulnerable people.

An AP reporter saw bodies partially covered by tarpaulins and a man carrying a dead child amid the wreckage.

Hundreds of people were preparing for a beach festival to celebrate Palu's anniversary.

The cities of Palu and Donggala bore the brunt of the tsunami.

Patients are being treated in the open outside city hospitals and at least one military field hospital has been erected.

Metro TV played amateur footage that showed large pools of water remaining from the tsunami, a bridge that had been washed away, large cracks in roads and buildings badly damaged.

"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.

The tsunami, which hit 34 minutes after a 7.5-magnitude natural disaster struck Indonesia, churned over the island in the center of Indonesia and killed more than 420 victims in Palu alone.

"We felt a deep heartbreak, may God gives Anthonius the best place beside him, along with other victims of Donggala natural disaster", said a spokesperson for Air Nav Indonesia, the country's aircraft navigation agency.

"Our deepest condolences. May Almighty God bless our family (Agung) and other victims of the quake in Donggala regency", he said.

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The quake hit just off central Sulawesi at a depth of 10 kilometers just before 1100 GMT - early evening in Sulawesi - the US Geological Survey said.

Nugroho said that the casualties and the damage could be greater along the coastline 190 miles north of Palu in a regency called Donggala, which is closer to the epicenter of the quake.

The Southeast Asian archipelago nation is reeling after yet another powerful quake struck Friday, followed by a tsunami, leaving almost 400 people dead and hundreds injured.

Electricity and communications have been cut off, making it hard to assess the damage in Palu and nearby fishing community of Donggala, Sutopo said. Indonesia's meteorological agency has been criticised for its response, but officials said the waves struck while the warning was in place.

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

The airport is otherwise shut because of quake damage.

"This is already a tragedy, but it could get much worse", it said.

The nearby cities of Donggala and Mamuju were also ravaged, but little information was available due to damaged roads and disrupted telecommunications.

"We have not received comprehensive reports yet because communications are cut".

Anthonius, who was only a month away from his 22nd birthday, was given a hero's send-off surrounded by hundreds of tributes as soldiers carried his body to his burial.

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

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