"People were still going about their activities on the beach and did not immediately run", said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for Indonesia's National Disaster Management Agency, adding that the death toll would "continue to rise as the search continues".
There were also reports of the quake impacting towns outside of Palu and Donggala, which could signal more victims from the disaster, he said.
The death toll, which had more than doubled from Sunday morning, was expected to climb much higher still, with heavily populated areas outside the city still cut off from communication and any assistance, and desperate search-and-rescue efforts continuing in the rubble of Palu, often with only rudimentary tools.
Aid and supplies were being sent to the area via military and commercial aircraft, including helicopters, to reach badly affected areas.
Footage from MetroTV on Sunday showed images of destroyed houses in Donggala and areas that were once land now inundated with water. Aerial video also showed the battered coastline surrounding Palu.
This shopping centre was one of the buildings badly damaged.
Many of those killed in Palu were swept away by giant waves more than 10ft high as they played on the beach in the scenic tourist town.
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The situation in outlying areas was even less clear.
President Joko Widodo visited a housing complex that was flattened when the quake liquefied the soil it stood on and called for patience.
In Palu, authorities urged residents to not go inside their homes Saturday night and to sleep away from buildings - fields, roads or yards because of the danger from aftershocks.
One witness recounted to the AP how violently his hotel shook during the quake and that he didn't know what happened to his wife and daughter.
"I have been here three times, every day", said the 28-year-old.
"When the wave came, I lost her", he said. "I heard my wife cry for help, but then silence".
I have one child, he is missing.
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It also suspended all commuter trains in the Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe areas by noon, according to its website. Osaka's Kansai International Airport , which was flooded by a typhoon last month, . has shut its runways.
At the moment, the death toll includes at least one child and notably a 21-year old air traffic controller, Anthonius Gunawan Agun, who stayed behind in the control tower to ensure that a passenger airplane safely took off after his colleagues evacuated the building when they began to feel the quake.
A video footage of the devastation that the tsunami caused in Palu, some 80 km away from the epicenter of the quake, shows waves hitting buildings, and crashing through some others already damaged from the natural disaster.
At least 408 people have been killed after a 7.5-magnitude quake and subsequent tsunami rocked the Indonesian island of Sulawesi on Friday, the country's disaster agency has confirmed. More recently, a powerful quake on the island of Lombok killed 505 people in August.
Numerous dead were found at beaches near the city of Palu, population about 350,000, where a festival was being held.
In the nearby city of Donggala a large bridge with yellow arches that spanned a coastal river had collapsed.
The city is built around a narrow bay which apparently magnified the force of the tsunami water as it raced into the tight inlet. But there wasn't enough time for lots of people to get to safety before the wave hit. The water smashed into buildings and the damaged mosque. Rahmansyah, who has one name, said many bodies have been pulled out of the debris already.
A Facebook page was created by anxious relatives who posted pictures of still-missing family members in the hopes of finding them alive. Convoys carrying food, water and fuel headed towards the city while a stream of residents headed out.
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Neighbours including Australia, Thailand and China offered help and Pope Francis, speaking to thousands in St. Peter's Square, said he was praying for the victims.