A tsunami that hit two central Indonesian cities swept away buildings and pulverized a substantial bridge, dumping victims caught in its relentless path across a devastated landscape that rescuers Saturday were struggling to reach, hindered by damaged roads and broken communications.
Disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said 384 people have died in the hard-hit city of Palu alone, Indonesian TV reported. He earlier said the fate of “tens to hundreds” of people involved in a beach festival in Palu when the tsunami struck was unknown.
The 3-meter high (10 foot) tsunami was triggered by a magnitude 7.5 earthquake and smashed into two cities and several settlements at dusk on Friday.
Palu, which has more than 380,000 people, was strewn with debris from collapsed buildings. A mosque heavily damaged by the quake was half submerged and a shopping mall was reduced to a crumpled hulk. Bodies lay partially covered by tarpaulins and a man carried a dead child through the wreckage.
The city is built around a narrow bay that apparently magnified the force of the tsunami waters as they raced into the tight inlet.