Families reported missing and homes swept away as powerful tsunami hits Indonesia

The tsunami hit the city of Palu, and nearby Donggala. Credit: PA

Families have been reported missing and homes swept away in a powerful tsunami in Indonesia.

The Pacific nation had issued a tsunami warning after a magnitude 7.5 earthquake hit the island of Sulawesi on Friday, but lifted it half and hour later.

Following the earthquake, several strong aftershocks, including one of magnitude 6.7, hit.

The tsunami hit the cities of Palu - which is the capital of the island's central province, and a smaller city, Donggala.

A house sits damaged after a magnitude 6.1 earthquake early Friday Credit: PA

Disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said in a live TV interview that houses were swept away and families were reported missing.

He added that communications to the area had been disrupted, hampering efforts to find out more information on what had happened.

"All national potential will be deployed, and tomorrow morning we will deploy Hercules and helicopters to provide assistance in tsunami-affected areas," he said.

Patients were evacuated from hospital after several earthquakes struck Sulawesi. Credit: AP

Indonesian TV showed a smartphone video of a powerful wave hitting Palu with people screaming and running in fear.

Palu's airport halted operations for 24 hours due to earthquake damage, according to AirNav, which oversees airline traffic in Indonesia.

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.

In December 2004, a massive magnitude 9.1 earthquake off Sumatra in western Indonesia triggered a tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries.