Indonesian quake, tsunami kills hundreds, death toll seen rising

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PALU, Indonesia (Reuters) – At least 384 people were killed, many swept away as giant waves crashed onto beaches, when a major earthquake and tsunami hit the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, authorities said on Saturday.

Hundreds had gathered for a festival on the beach in the city of Palu on Friday when waves as high as six meters (18 feet) smashed onshore at dusk, sweeping many to their death and destroying anything in their path, following a 7.5 magnitude earthquake.

“When the (tsunami) threat arose yesterday, people were still doing their activities on the beach and did not immediately run and they became victims,” Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the spokesman for Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency BNPB said in a briefing in Jakarta.

“The tsunami didn’t come by itself, it dragged cars, logs, houses, it hit everything on land,” Nugroho said, adding that the tsunami had traveled across the open sea at speeds of 800 kph (497 mph) before striking the shoreline.

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