Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is responding to an earthquake that struck Friday night just off the coast of Donggala in central Sulawesi, Indonesia. The 7.5 magnitude quake triggered an unexpected tsunami, which hit the city of Palu, destroying homes and businesses in its path. While the scope of destruction is unclear, initial government reports indicate a death toll of 400 as of Saturday evening, but communications are down, and emergency teams have not reached all affected areas.

“The images coming out of Palu are horrifying and bring back memories of the devastation caused by the region’s 2004 earthquake and tsunami. One of the lessons we learned from that disaster is that it will take time to learn the full scope of the destruction,” said Yenni Suryani, CRS’ country manager in Indonesia. “The government is to be commended for their immediate response and the work they are doing to get information out quickly. Knowing that time is of the essence, our partners are racing to overcome extreme logistical challenges to get to the scene as fast as possible.”

Suryani added that with the airport damaged, getting access to Palu and Donggala has been problematic.

“Responders and local aid groups are having to drive overland 10-12 hours. That means a bottleneck for relief supplies in coming days,” she said. “Those long hours on the road are going to mean hours lost getting assistance to people who need it in the next few days. Another option in coming days will be sea routes. The Ministry of Transportation is sending in relief by ship from North Sulawesi.”

CRS’ local partners Caritas Makassar and Muhammadiyah Disaster Management Center (MDMC) are en route to Donggala and Palu in Sulawesi.

About the tsunami, Suryani said, “I’m worried about people who might have been washed away. Several mosques, a shopping mall, and many houses have collapsed. The impact is significant, and as soon as our local partners reach affected areas and establish communication, we’ll know more about the extent of the destruction and people’s most urgent needs.”

For updates on the response to the earthquake and tsunami in Sulawesi, Indonesia, go to https://www.crs.org/press-room.

To donate to the relief efforts in Indonesia, click here.