Heroic Indonesian Air Traffic Controller Dies So Flight Can Take Off Safely

Heroic Indonesian Air Traffic Controller Dies So Flight Can Take Off Safely

A powerful tremor near the Indonesian island of Sulawesi and a resulting tsunami have killed almost 400 people and injures scores of others - and the death toll could still climb.

At least 408 people have been killed after a 7.5-magnitude quake and subsequent tsunami rocked the Indonesian island of Sulawesi on Friday, the country's disaster agency has confirmed.

Nugroho said "tens to hundreds" of people were taking part in a beach festival in Palu when the tsunami, which was triggered by a magnitude 7.5 natural disaster, struck at dusk on Friday and their fate was unknown.

"People were still going about their activities on the beach and did not immediately run", said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for Indonesia's National Disaster Management Agency.

"It is not just the people in the large urban areas".

With Palu airport closed, relief workers have to make their way to Palu by road. Sulawesi is one of the biggest islands in the world with a drive to the nearest airport being 10 to 12 hours. Authorities are urging residents to leave home and sleep away from buildings since there are risks of aftershocks.

Nearly 400 people are feared dead and hundreds more unaccounted for after a powerful quake shook the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.

The 10ft (3m) tsunami triggered by a magnitude 7.5 natural disaster smashed into two cities and several settlements at dusk on Friday, sweeping away buildings and destroying a bridge.

While numerous injured are being treated at local hospitals, according to CNN, at least one hospital has been structurally compromised, resulting in some of the injured being cared for in the street.

Dr. Komang Adi Sujendra, Director of Undata Hospital in Palu was seeking help from the public following the quake. "No phone network either". We also need people to help the victims.

"What we now desperately need is heavy machinery to clear the rubble".

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At the moment, the death toll includes at least one child and notably a 21-year old air traffic controller, Anthonius Gunawan Agun, who stayed behind in the control tower to ensure that a passenger airplane safely took off after his colleagues evacuated the building when they began to feel the quake.

His colleagues had evacuated the tower when they felt the earthquakes but he stayed behind to ensure that a Batik airplane safely took off, Air Nav Indonesia, the agency that oversees aircraft navigation, said in a statement.

Nugroho said the tsunami had struck with a speed of 800 kmph (497 mph), destroying buildings and infrastructure.

Thousands of buildings were destroyed by the natural disaster, which was centered about 48 miles (77km) north of Palu, according to the United States Geological Survey.

Anthonius Gunawan Agung, 21, was working at Mutiara SIS Al-Jufrie Airport in Palu on the central Indonesian island of Sulawesi on Friday night, when a 6.1 magnitude tremor hit, followed by a 7.5-magnitude quake.

The tsunami was "about three meters high", Nugroho said.

"At this time, details and impacts of the 7.5 magnitude natural disaster [reported as 7.7 locally] on Minahassa Peninsula, Sulawesi, and a subsequent tsunami are still emerging, and extent of the damage is unknown", the spokeswoman said.

The meteorological and geophysics agency BMKG issued a tsunami warning after the Friday quake but lifted it 34 minutes later, drawing widespread criticism it had withdrawn it too quickly.

Red Cross said there are more than 300,000 people living in the area, and vice president Jusuf Kalla warned the death toll could rise to thousands. "[Praise Allah], my children are safe", he said on Friday.

It is feared the tsunami may have washed many of those on the coast out to sea.

This content was republished with permission from CNN.

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