Indonesia earthquake, tsunami death toll tops 400, hundreds more injured

Updated 4:27 AM EDT, Sun September 30, 2018
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PHOTO: Indonesia's Disaster Management Agency
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Anuwat Kongko, a 28-year-old hiker from Thailand, was on top of Mount Rinjani when the earthquake hit.
 
"I reached the summit [Mont Rinjani] at around 6am along with some friends. Then I spent some time taking pictures with my camera with my friends until 6.47am, when the 1st earthquake occurred. It's just like the mountain was shaking. Everyone crouched on the floor and after it stopped I started to run away from there.
 
"After 10minutes an aftershock happened. Then, everyone was told to move out from there pretty quickly (you can see it in my video). Some of the pathway was destroyed by the earthquake."
 
Kongko said it took them 1 hour to get from the summit to the camping area, and 3 hours from the camping area to the village.
PHOTO: Anuwat Kongko
Anuwat Kongko, a 28-year-old hiker from Thailand, was on top of Mount Rinjani when the earthquake hit. "I reached the summit [Mont Rinjani] at around 6am along with some friends. Then I spent some time taking pictures with my camera with my friends until 6.47am, when the 1st earthquake occurred. It's just like the mountain was shaking. Everyone crouched on the floor and after it stopped I started to run away from there. "After 10minutes an aftershock happened. Then, everyone was told to move out from there pretty quickly (you can see it in my video). Some of the pathway was destroyed by the earthquake." Kongko said it took them 1 hour to get from the summit to the camping area, and 3 hours from the camping area to the village.
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(CNN) —  

Rescue workers in Indonesia continued a desperate search for survivors Sunday, two days after a powerful earthquake hit the island of Sulawesi and triggered a tsunami, killing more than 400 people.

After the 7.5-magnitude earthquake hit Friday, water smashed into buildings and swept away homes in the coastal city of Palu, home to 350,000 people.

Indonesian Disaster Management Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho put the death toll at 405 early Sunday, based on the number of bodies that had been recovered. More than 400 people were badly injured, Sutopo said.

Many victims were still buried under the rubble of buildings and houses, Sutopo said, and evacuation efforts were slowed by lack of heavy equipment and personnel.

Electricity and communications have been cut off, making it difficult to assess the damage in Palu and nearby fishing community of Donggala, Sutopo said.

“It is not just the people in the large urban areas. There are a lot of people also living in remote communities who are hard to reach” Jan Gelfand, head of the International Red Cross in Indonesia, told CNN.

With Palu airport closed, relief workers have to make their way to Palu by road. Sulawesi is one of the biggest islands in the world and the drive from the nearest airport is around 10-12 hours. “We already have people en route but you never know what damage there is to the road infrastructure.”

In Palu, authorities urged residents to not go inside their homes Saturday night and to sleep away from buildings – fields, roads or yards because of the danger from aftershocks.

Scores wounded, hospital calls for help

After a local hospital was damaged, medical staff opted to treat dozens of wounded residents just outside the building, Sutopo said.

Medical team help wounded residents outside a hospital in on Saturday.
PHOTO: MUHAMMAD RIFKI/AFP/Getty Images
Medical team help wounded residents outside a hospital in on Saturday.

Dr. Komang Adi Sujendra, Director of Undata Hospital in Palu was seeking help from the public following the quake.

“At the moment, in our hospital, electricity is out all over Palu, roads are cracked, the phone network doesn’t work,” he said in a video posted on Twitter. “We are hoping for any help.”

“We need tents, medicine, canvas, nurses …”

Air traffic controller dies after trying to escape

An air traffic controller who stayed behind to make sure a passenger airplane took off was among the dozens of victims.

Anthonius Gunawan Agung, 21, died in the hospital after he jumped off the traffic control tower at the Palu airport when he thought the tower was collapsing.

He stayed behind to make sure a passenger airplane safely took off, according to AirNav Indonesia, the agency that oversees aircraft navigation.

“We felt a deep heartbreak, may God gives Anthonius the best place beside him, along with other victims of Donggala earthquake,” Air Nav spokesperson Yohanes Sirait said.

A massive quake

The horrific scene began Friday when the first in a series of tremors was felt at 3 p.m. (3 a.m. ET) 35 miles (56 km) north of Palu, according to the United States Geological Survey.

Three quakes of 4.9 and larger magnitudes were recorded up to three hours before the tremor near Palu, the USGS said.

The tremor triggered a tsunami that hit beaches in the cities of Palu and Donggala, officials said.

The tsunami was “about three meters high,” Nugroho said.

An early tsunami warning had been issued by the Indonesian meteorological agency, but was later lifted after the agency ascertained that the water had receded.

A series of aftershock quakes were reported in the aftermath of the quake, including a 5.8 magnitude tremor just 12 minutes later.

An early tsunami warning had been issued by the Indonesian meteorological agency, but was later lifted after the agency ascertained that the water had receded.

A resident is seen beside the collapsed brick wall of her house at Tobadak village in Central Mamuju, western Sulawesi province, on September 28 after a strong earthquake hit the area.
PHOTO: NURPADILA/AFP/Getty Images
A resident is seen beside the collapsed brick wall of her house at Tobadak village in Central Mamuju, western Sulawesi province, on September 28 after a strong earthquake hit the area.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said the military was being called in to the disaster-struck region to help search-and-rescue teams get to victims and find bodies.

Writing on his official Twitter account Friday, Widodo said he was monitoring the situation and preparing for any post-earthquake eventualities.

“May our brothers and sisters remain calm and be safe,” he wrote.

The quakes come weeks after a trio of earthquakes hit several islands in the South Pacific and Indonesia, including Lombok, which is still recovering from the effects of an August 5 earthquake that killed more than 430 people.

The quakes come a month after a trio of earthquakes hit several islands in the South Pacific and Indonesia, including Lombok, which is still recovering from the effects of an August 5 earthquake that killed more than 430 people.