At Least One Dead Following Earthquakes In Indonesian Island Of Sulawesi

Robertus PudyantoGetty Images

At least one person is dead and extensive damage has been seen on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi following a series of earthquakes in the island, reports the Weather Channel.

The most powerful earthquake struck just after 6 p.m. local time on Friday night, recording 7.5 on the Richter scale. The tremor’s center was 35 miles away from the town of Donggala, home to 300,000 people and triggered a tsunami warning from the Indonesian authorities. The tsunami went on to hit Donggala along with the neighboring town of Palau but little information about the wave has been gathered by the Indonesian geophysics agency yet.

What information has been gathered has come from Indonesia’s equivalent of FEMA which reported that houses have been completely swept away by the tsunami and that many people are missing but the timing of the quake at nightfall has hindered rescuers efforts to find the missing.

The strongest earthquake, which triggered the tsunami, was just one of a series of tremors with 10 shocks of magnitude five or higher striking the island on Friday. Just hours before the main quake struck a 6.1 magnitude earthquake hit in a similar part of the island killing one, injuring dozens more and causing extensive property damage throughout the island.

One resident was able to film the damage of the earthquake, simply saying in his tweet “The earthquake before Maghrib (a scheduled time of prayer for Muslims) in Donggala”

So far, only reporting out of Donggala and Palau has come out to the authorities which are expecting more information from nine other districts on the island. Sulawesi has a unique shape, often described as looking like a cat, this leads to significant numbers of remote communities on the island which will make getting information, and rescue efforts, hard.

Indonesia was recently also hit by a significant earthquake last month which killed hundreds on the island of Lombok, further south in the archipelago than Sulawesi.

This section of Indonesia can be susceptible to earthquakes, with a tremor in nearby Sumatra in 2004 triggering the disastrous Indian Ocean tsunami which killed over 300,000 people. That came after a much stronger, 9.1 magnitude quake, but the Indonesian authorities were aware of fears that could arise after such a significant series of quakes and released a statement after reporting that a tsunami had developed that it would not impact the Indian Ocean as a whole.

The rescue efforts have only just begun, and with so many residents still missing the death toll could well rise above the one.