Indonesian island of Sulawesi struck by massive quake and tsunami

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Sulawesi
Floodwaters surround a mosque after an earthquake and tsunami struck the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. Picture by Ambrose Bendoaman, via Twitter.

The Philippines has expressed condolences to Indonesia after a massive earthquake and the tsunami that it triggered struck Sulawesi island, claiming nearly 400 lives.

In a statement today (Saturday, September 29), Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said: “We grieve with our Indonesian brothers and sisters and stand hand in hand with them in praying for all of those who lost their lives in this tragedy.”

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Cayetano, who is currently in New York City for the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly, added that the Philippines was “ready to respond and extend assistance to Indonesia.”

The 7.5-magnitude earthquake hit just off Central Sulawesi at a shallow depth of six miles at about 7pm local time yesterday, according to the US Geological Survey.

Leehiong Wee, the Philippine Ambassador to Indonesia, said the earthquake and tsunami struck the provincial capital city of Palu and the neighbouring city of Donggala.

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Wee also said that the only Filipino known to be in the area – a prisoner at the Lapas Penitentiary – was safe.

The Indonesian Disaster Mitigation Agency put the official death toll so far at 384, all of them in the tsunami-struck Palu. It also warned that the death toll was likely to rise. 

Yenni Suryani, the Indonesia country manager for Catholic Relief Services, said today that it could take hours for rescuers to reach Donggala and other communities that might have been affected. Communications were down near the quake’s epicentre, and damage to a runway at Palu’s airport meant flights were being limited to government and military helicopters.

“I’m worried about people who might have been washed away,” she said. “Several mosques, a shopping mall, and many houses have collapsed. The impact is significant, and as soon as our local partners can reach affected areas and establish communication, we’ll know more about the extent of the destruction and people’s most urgent needs.”

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