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Tsunami driven by massive quake sweeps away homes on Indonesian island of Sulawesi

Tsunami driven by massive quake sweeps away homes on Indonesian island of Sulawesi
Damaged homes in Donggala, on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. (EPA/Shutterstock)

A powerful earthquake rocked the Indonesian island of Sulawesi on Friday, triggering a 10-foot-tall tsunami that an official said swept away houses in at least two coastal cities.

Disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said in a TV interview that the tsunami hit Palu, the capital of Central Sulawesi province, and a smaller city, Donggala.

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He said houses were swept away and families were reported missing. Communications to the area were disrupted.

"The cut to telecommunications and darkness are hampering efforts to obtain information," Sutopo said. "All national potential will be deployed, and tomorrow morning we will deploy Hercules [transport planes] and helicopters to provide assistance in tsunami-affected areas."

Indonesian TV broadcast online video of a powerful wave hitting Palu with people screaming and running in fear. The water smashed into buildings and a large mosque that crumpled under the force.

The region was rocked by a magnitude 7.5 earthquake Friday and numerous strong aftershocks, including one of magnitude 6.7.

The chief of the meteorology and geophysics agency, Dwikorita Karnawati, said the tsunami warning, triggered by the 7.5 quake, was in place for about half an hour.

Palu's airport halted operations for 24 hours because of quake damage, according to AirNav, which oversees airline traffic in Indonesia.

Mirza Arisam, a resident of Kendari, the capital of neighboring Southeast Sulawesi province, said he had been unable to contact his uncle, who was on vacation in Palu with his family of five.

Central Sulawsi was hit earlier Friday by a magnitude 6.1 earthquake that reportedly killed one person, injured 10 and damaged dozens of houses.

Television news showed people running into the streets. Women and children were seen wailing in a video distributed by the disaster agency, which also released a photo showing a heavily damaged department store.

"All the things in my house were swaying, and the quake left a small crack on my wall," Donggala resident Mohammad Fikri said by telephone.

Indonesia is prone to earthquakes because of its location on the Ring of Fire, an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin.

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

1:45 p.m.: This article was updated with additional information and details, including the size of the tsunami.

8:05 a.m.: This article was updated with an estimate of the wave height and Palu’s airport halting operations.

4:35 a.m.: This article was updated with one dead and comments from officials and residents.

3:50 a.m.: This article was updated with the tsunami warning being lifted.

This article was originally published at 3:35 a.m.

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