The death toll has reached 384 people

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Dozens of people were reported to be still trapped in the rubble of a hotel in the city of Palu, which was hit by waves as high as six metres (20 feet) following the 7.5 magnitude quake.

Video footage on social media showed waves surging ashore in huge swirls of debris as people scattered. Photos showed twisted tin and wood splinters floating in the coffee-colored torrent alongside cars and motorbikes that had been tossed like toys.

Nugroho described the damage as "extensive" with thousands of houses, hospitals, shopping malls and hotels collapsed, a bridge washed away and the main highway to Palu cut due to a landslide.

Images also showed bodies draped in crude blue tarps on roads near the beach, while others were laid out in rows on concrete foundations.

Bodies covered in blue and yellow tarps lined the streets of Palu, and officials said they were digging a mass grave for at least 300 of the dead.

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Indonesia had not yet asked for help but he contacted President Joko Widodo overnight to offer support and deep sympathies.

Jan Gelfand, head of the International Red Cross in Indonesia, has said that help was also on the way for the fishing towns of Donggala and Mamuju, two areas feared to be heavily devastated.

"Because of the bay, all the water comes there and collects together".

Dozens of people were reported to be trapped in the rubble of two hotels and a mall in the city of Palu, which was hit by waves as high as six metres (20 feet) following the 7.5 magnitude quake on Friday.

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Willem Rampangilei, told reporters in Sulawesi late on Saturday the death toll from Palu had reached 420 people, according to news website Kompas.

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

There are about 800 people living in the area, and all of the houses were destroyed by the magnitude 7.5 natural disaster that spawned the tsunami. One woman was about to give birth.

Strong aftershocks have also led to the closure of the global airport and the city from partial destruction of the runway. The city was eerily dark and quiet with no electricity and not even landline phones working.

People survey damage of Roa roa hotel following earthquakes and tsunami in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia. The water smashed into buildings and the damaged mosque.

In contrast, temblors occurring where one tectonic plate is lodged beneath another - called subduction zones - can move large amounts of water vertically when the strain forces one plate to pop up or dive down.

The initial quake struck as evening prayers were about to begin in the world's biggest Muslim majority country on the holiest day of the week, when mosques are especially busy. - 75,000 people exposed to MMI VII "Very Strong" shaking (Moderate damage to vulnerable structures) Tsunami risk: The event happened very close to the coast: a moderate tsunami of the order of 1m can be produced along the coasts of Sulawesi, with the current parameters.

Indonesia is prone to earthquakes because of its location on the "Ring of Fire", an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin.