Tsunami leaves path of death in Indonesia

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After the 7.5-magnitude quake hit Friday, water smashed into buildings and swept away homes in the coastal city of Palu city, home to 350,000 people.More than 540 people are being treated in several local hospitals amid the massive destruction in Palu and 29 people are missing.

The tsunami, which followed a magnitude-7.5 quake, swept away buildings and unsuspecting victims caught in its path.

Disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said the waves reached as high as six metres in at least one area, according to a report relayed by a man who called to say he survived only by climbing a tree.

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

The wave damaged several buildings, including a mosque.

Photos confirmed by authorities showed bodies being lined up along the street on Saturday, some in bags and some with their faces covered with clothes.

Aftershocks continued to rock the coastal city on Saturday. People are queuing up at roadside stalls, buying petrol in bottles to take into the affected area and to find missing loved ones.

"There was no time to save ourselves", he told the Associated Press news agency.

The geography of the city, which sits at the end of a long, narrow bay, could have magnified the size of the tsunami, it said.

Earlier Nugroho told a briefing in Jakarta the damage was "extensive" and said thousands of houses, hospitals, shopping malls and hotels had collapsed. A bridge was washed away and the main highway to Palu was cut off due to a landslide.

The figure is from the hard-hit city of Palu alone, where hundreds of people are injured and thousands of homes damaged or destroyed. Dozens of injured people were being treated in makeshift medical tents set up outdoors, TV images showed.

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Dramatic video footage captured from the top floor of a parking ramp in Palu, almost 80 kilometres (50 miles) from the quake's epicentre, showed waves bring down several buildings and inundate a large mosque.

"We felt a deep heartbreak, may God gives Anthonius the best place beside him, along with other victims of Donggala quake", Air Nav spokesperson Yohanes Sirait said.

Road access to Palu from the east and the south are disconnected, making relief efforts hard, authorities said.

"We're now getting limited communications about the destruction in Palu city, but we have heard nothing from Donggala and this is extremely worrying. There are more than 300,000 people living there", Red Cross said in a statement.

Already, a story of bravery has emerged from the tragedy.

The only Filipino on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi is safe after a powerful natural disaster and tsunami left at least 420 dead there, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Saturday.

Indonesia's meteorological agency has been criticised for its response but officials said the waves struck while the warning was in place. Reuters was not able to immediately authenticate the footage.

Chief security minister Wiranto told TVOne the military had started sending in cargo planes from the capital Jakarta carrying relief aid.

The city's airport has been reopened only for relief efforts and will remain closed until October 4 for commercial flights, Nugroho said.

The disaster agency has said that essential aircraft can land at Palu's airport, though AirNav, which oversees aircraft navigation, said the runway was cracked and the control tower damaged.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo was scheduled to visit evacuation centres in the city on Sunday.