A 6.2-magnitude earthquake on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island killed at least 35 people and wounded hundreds on Friday, likely strong enough to cause a tsunami, with the meteorological agency warning of aftershocks.
The strong earthquake struck six kilometres northeast of the town of Majene, shortly before 1:30 a.m. (local time) at a comparatively shallow depth of 10 km, forcing thousands of terrified people out of their homes and rushing to higher ground.
The earthquake and aftershocks triggered three landslides, cut power, damaged bridges to regional hubs such as the town of Makassar, and demolished more than 60 houses, two hotels and the provincial governor’s office, where, according to officials, at least two people were buried under debris.
“Praise God, for now [we’re] all right, but we just felt another aftershock,” said Sukri Efendy, a 26-year-old resident.
Darno Majid, head of the West Sulawesi disaster agency, told Reuters that 35 people were killed in Majene and in the neighbouring Mamuju district, with further deaths expected to be reported as rescue workers fanned out.
Initial statistics from the national disaster response agency revealed that 637 people in Majene and two dozen in Mamuju were injured.
No tsunami alert was given, but Dwikorita Karnawati, head of the Indonesian Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), told a news conference that aftershocks could follow, with the likelihood of a tsunami causing another powerful quake.
At least 26 aftershocks have occurred, she added, with a Friday quake followed by a Thursday afternoon 5.9 magnitude quake.
Safaruddin, spokesman for the provincial government of West Sulawesi, said that authorities needed to restore telecommunications, rebuild many broken bridges and supply tents, food and medical supplies.
On social media, photos of the aftermath emerged as the chief of the disaster agency and the minister of social affairs were scheduled to fly in.
Images captured people running on bikes to higher ground, and a boy stuck under the ruins as individuals worked to clear debris with their hands.
Straddling the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, earthquakes frequently strike Indonesia.
The city of Palu, in Sulawesi, was hit by a catastrophic 6.2-magnitude quake and ensuing tsunami in 2018, killing thousands.
On Boxing Day 2004, a 9.1 magnitude earthquake off the north of Indonesia’s Sumatra Island sparked a tsunami that washed through coastal regions of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and nine other nations, killing more than 230,000 people.