Situation Report: Earthquake and Tsunami on Indonesia’s Island of Sulawesi

October 1, 2018


A 7.5-magnitude earthquake struck Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, on Friday night. The quake, and the resulting tsunami with waves up to about 10 feet high, leveled buildings and brought destruction to the city of Palu and surrounding areas. As of Tuesday evening local time, the death toll has reached 1,234 people, with hundreds more missing. Thousands have been injured, at least 799 severely. Around 60,000 people have been displaced, staying in over 100 sites, while 65,000 houses have been damaged. The electricity grid is down in the affected areas, and the cell network has only been partially restored with the help of generators. Access to Palu remains difficult: the small airport was damaged in the quake and road access has also been affected. In addition, Palu, and Central Sulawesi, are relatively isolated. Sulawesi is the world’s 11th largest island and other larger cities on Sulawesi, such as Makassar and Gorontalo, are hundreds of miles away. The terrain is often mountainous, and roads are poor.

According to the Indonesian government, the immediate needs and priorities are:
– continued evacuations,
– search and rescue,
– providing fuel, particularly for generators at hospitals and cellular operators,
– reconnecting electricity and communications networks and
– support for the displaced.

Temporary shelter items likes tarpaulins, blankets and mattresses are needed, as are food aid, medical services and water and sanitation.


CWS staff acted immediately as news of the disaster broke across Asia, and our Indonesia team has been in touch with our ACT Alliance and Humanitarian Forum Indonesia colleagues since the first hours of the crisis to determine how best to respond. Staff in Thailand and Japan, which include humanitarian response experts, are supporting our Indonesia team and reaching out to their contacts as well.

A CWS staff member is on the ground in Palu to lead the initial response, coordinating with staff from ACT members YEU and Pelkesi as well as the HFI and working with staff from the Indonesian government and other organizations to conduct assessments of the most urgent needs.

In addition, CWS is sending a three-person response team from Makassar, in South Sulawesi, to Palu. This team includes staff with expertise in logistics, shelter, water supply and sanitation. They will bring relief supplies that are not available – or no longer available – in the affected areas. Those will include tarps, blankets, buckets, soap, towels and more basic supplies that will be purchased locally. The team is expected to depart on October 3 for Palu, either by road or by sea. The journey is estimated to take at least 24 hours.

More information will be made available as this response unfolds.


Donations to the CWS response can be made online at or mailed to your denomination or to Church World Service, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515 (designate 700Z – Indonesia Earthquake and Tsunami response).