PALU (INDONESIA), Sept 29 - Nearly 400 people were killed when a powerful quake sent a tsunami barrelling into the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, officials said on Saturday, as hospitals struggled to cope with hundreds of injured and rescuers scrambled to reach the stricken region.
The national disaster agency put the official death toll so far at 384, all of them in the tsunami-struck city of Palu, but warned the toll was likely to rise. In the city � home to around 350,000 people � partially covered bodies lay on the ground near the shore, the day after tsunami waves 1.5 metres came ashore.
There were also concerns over the whereabouts of hundreds of people preparing for a beach festival due to start on Friday evening, the disaster agency said.
Hospitals were overwhelmed by the influx of injured, with many people being treated in the open air, while other survivors helped to retrieve the remains of those who died.
The tsunami was triggered by a strong quake that brought down buildings and sent locals fleeing for higher ground as a churning wall of water crashed into Palu, where there were widespread power blackouts.
A dramatic video footage captured from the top floor of a parking ramp in Palu, nearly 80 km from the quake�s epicentre, showed waves of water bring down several buildings and inundate a large mosque.
The shallow 7.5 magnitude tremor was more powerful than a series of quakes that killed hundreds on the Indonesian island of Lombok in July and August.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo said the military was being called in to the disaster-struck region to help search-and-rescue teams get to victims and find bodies.
The quake hit just off central Sulawesi at a depth of 10 km just before 1100 GMT � early evening in Sulawesi � the US Geological Survey said. Such shallow quakes tend to be more destructive.
The main airport in Palu, capital of South Sulawesi province, was shut after the tsunami struck and was expected to stay closed for at least 24 hours, complicating any disaster relief efforts.
Friday�s tremor was also felt in the far south of the island in its largest city Makassar and on neighbouring Kalimantan, Indonesia�s portion of Borneo island.
Indonesia is one of the most disaster-prone nations on the earth. It lies on the Pacific �Ring of Fire�, where tectonic plates collide and many of the world�s volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur. � AFP