Satellite time-lapse shows Palu devastated by 'land tsunami' as 'liquid' soil devours homes

Earthquake survivors search for useable items among the debris in Palu, Indonesia's Central Sulawesi on October 1, 2018, after an earthquake and tsunami hit the area on September 28.
PHOTO: AFP

On Saturday, National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNBP) spokesperson Sutopo Purwo Nugroho shared a time-lapse of satellite imagery on his Instagram account, showing how liquefaction devastated neighborhoods on Sept. 28 in Palu, Central Sulawesi .

"Process of soil liquefaction in Petobo Housing Complex, Palu, using WordView satellite imaging at 0.5 meter [per] pixel resolution. Houses and buildings were swept away and sunk [into] mud that appeared due to the earthquake," he posted in Indonesian on @sutopopurwo.

"The search and rescue team is working to recover bodies in this area. Victims continue to be found ," he added.

A tsunami and soil liquefaction followed the 7.4-magnitude earthquake that shook Palu.

Soil liquefaction, a geological process by which the soil structure collapses, is relatively unknown among the Indonesian public, including survivors and witnesses of the disaster. 

The Jakarta Post correspondent Ruslan Sangadji reported that on the morning after the quake, survivors referred to the phenomenon as "land tsunami".

Witnesses said the "mud" rolled like ocean waves.

Houses in Petobo shifted as much as 700 meters from their original locations.

Yahdi Basma, a Central Sulawesi councilor, whose two-story house moved 700 meters and was partially submerged in the liquefied soil, said the "mud" also dragged coconut trees a few hundred meters. However, he said, the trees were still alive.

Scores killed in Indonesia quake, tsunami

  • Earthquake survivors in Palu, Central Sulawesi, crowd Mutiara Sis Al Jufri Airport in Palu in a desperate attempt to leave the devastated area on Monday.
  • A combination of satellite images shows Palu, Indonesia on September 22, 2018 (L) and on October 1, 2018.
  • A combination of satellite images shows Palu, Indonesia on September 22, 2018 (L) and on October 1, 2018.
  • In the wake of mass destruction caused by a 7.4-magnitude earthquake and the subsequent tsunami, survivors in Palu and Donggala in Central Sulawesi have been scrambling to salvage food supplies and other items, as aid from the central government began to trickle into the region.
  • An aerial view of an area devestated by an earthquake in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia October 1, 2018 in this photo taken by Antara Foto.
  • Local residents affected by the earthquake and tsunami retrieve gasoline at a gas station in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia.
  • This handout from Indonesia's National Agency for Disaster Management (BNPB) taken on September 29, 2018 shows an aerial view of Palu, Indonesia's Central Sulawesi, after an earthquake and tsunami hit the area on September 28.
  • Scores of people were killed when a powerful quake and tsunami struck central Indonesia, an AFP photographer at the scene said on Saturday (Sept 29), as rescuers scrambled to reach the stricken region.
  • Photographs from Palu, home to around 350,000 on the coast of Sulawesi island, showed partially covered bodies on the ground near the shore, the morning after tsunami waves as high as 1.5 metres slammed into the city.
  • A satellite image shows Palu, Indonesia on October 1, 2018.
  • The tsunami was triggered by a strong quake that brought down several buildings and sent locals fleeing their homes for higher ground as a churning wall of water crashed into Palu.
  • People living hundreds of kilometres from the epicentre reported feeling the massive shake, hours after a smaller jolt killed at least one person in the same part of the South-east Asian archipelago.
  • The quake hit just off central Sulawesi at a depth of 10 kilometres just before 6pm local time, the US Geological Survey said. Such shallow quakes tend to be more destructive.
  • Search and rescue teams have been dispatched to hard-hit areas
  • A 10-storey hotel in Palu in Indonesia's Central Sulawesi collapsed following a strong earthquake in the area.
  • As shattered survivors scoured make-shift morgues for loved ones, and authorities struggled to dig out the living or assess the scale of the devastation beyond the city of Palu, grim warnings came that the eventual toll could reach thousands.
  • Rescuers on Sulawesi island raced against the clock and a lack of equipment to save those still trapped in the rubble, with up to 60 people feared to be underneath one Palu hotel alone.
  • Others have centred their search around open-air morgues, where the dead lay in the baking sun - waiting to be claimed, waiting to be named.
  • Still, as dire as the situation in Palu was, it was at least clear. In outlying areas, the fate of thousands is still unknown.
  • Desperate survivors, now facing a third straight night sleeping outdoors, turned to looting shops for basics like food, water and fuel as police looked on, unwilling or unable to intervene.

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