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10-Foot Tsunami Sweeps Away Houses in Palu, Indonesia

A tsunami smashed into Sulawesi island in Indonesia on Friday, destroying buildings in the city of Palu shortly after the region was struck by a magnitude 7.5 earthquake. .

Authorities estimated the tsunami’s waves to be about 10 feet high, but a cellphone video reported to be taken in Palu showed a wave that seemed even higher crashing over the roofs of one-story buildings. The buildings then disappear beneath the water.

It is unclear if whether everyone in the area evacuated in time.

The spokesman for Indonesia’s disaster agency, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, said houses were swept away and families were reported missing, according to The Associated Press. It was difficult to immediately assess the extent of the casualties or the damage that was done because communications were disrupted.

The quake, which also caused damage, struck 48 miles north of Palu, according to the United States Geological Survey. The tsunami was reported to hit at least one other community called Donggala.

Earlier in the day, a quake measuring 6.1 had hit the island of Sulawesi, and authorities reported that several people had died and 10 were injured, according to the AP.

After the larger quake hit the region, the authorities issued a tsunami warning. They said it was lifted after the tsunami reached land.

The brief video said to be from Palu appears to have been taken from the top of a building across from the beach. Mr. Sutopo, the government spokesman, retweeted the video in describing damage from the tsunami.

The video starts by showing that coastal buildings and a major street below were already flooded, possibly indicating that an initial wave had already hit the coast. Debris was floating in the water but no people were visible. A large wave can be seen rolling toward the shore.

As the wave struck, people on top of the building shouted and scrambled to get away from the wall of water. The water surged around a mosque, whose large green dome had collapsed, probably from the quakes.

The authorities said Palu’s airport would be closed until Saturday evening because of damage from the quakes.

Indonesia, a vast archipelago with about 17,500 islands, is part of the Ring of Fire, an area susceptible to earthquakes and volcanic activity.

Numerous earthquakes have struck the region in recent months. One of the biggest was a magnitude 6.9 earthquake that hit Lombok and the Gili islands southwest of Sulawesi on August 5, killing more than 460 people.

In 2004, a magnitude 9.1 earthquake struck off the coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra causing a massive tsunami in the Indian Ocean and killing about 230,000 people, most of them in Indonesia.

Muktita Suhartono contributed reporting from Malaysia.

Source: NYT > World

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