Central Sulawesi experienced two major earthquakes on Friday with several aftershocks and a tsunami. First, a 5.9-magnitude quake hit, killing at least one person and injuring 10 others in Donggala regency. It was followed by a 7.7-magnitude earthquake at 6:02 p.m.
Authorities later updated that it was a 7.4-magnitude earthquake. The last tremors triggered a tsunami with a wave of 1.5 meter struck the coastline of the city of Palu, the capital of Central Sulawesi. The wave destroyed Palu Grand Mall as well as Baiturrahman Mosque.
The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) head of the tsunami early warning division, Weniza, said it recorded 55 aftershocks since the main shock as of Friday, ranging in magnitude from 2.9 to 6.3.
According to Statistics Indonesia (BPS), Central Sulawesi’s population reached nearly 3 million people in 2016. From the total, Palu city was home to at least 374,000 residents and Donggala regency at least 296,400 people.
The total number of victims has been growing since first news reported about the earthquake: from a first estimation of 50 victims on Friday, the number jumped to 384 in the middle of the afternoon on Saturday, according to the National Mitigation Disaster Agency. However, on Sunday, new estimation talked about over 830 victims.
Help to the area has been slow to arrive due to numerous destructions of buildings, damaged infrastructure such as the airport. The Mitigation Disaster Agency estimated that the tsunami killed more people than the earthquake in the area. Some online geek spread out the story that dead bodies were lying on the sea, waiting to be repatriated on the mainland.
Mutiara Sis Al Jufri Airport in Palu is closed due to damages caused by the earthquake. A notification letter from AirNav Indonesia announced on Friday evening that the closure would be effective from 7:26 p.m. local time on Friday until 7:20 p.m. on Saturday. The airport suffered damages to its navigation system as well as 500 meters of its 2,500-m-long runway as a result of the earthquake, which made it impossible for large aircraft to land. On Sunday morning, the airfield reopened for commercial flights, allowing personal as well as medical and food supplies to arrive. The government also decided to immediately provide financial funds of US$38 million to help to the reconstruction especially to reconnect the province to the electricity and telecom network as well as speeding roads’ repair.
(Information updated on Sunday 30/09/18)