21-year-old air traffic controller Anthonius Gunawan Agung has been hailed as a hero after sacrificing his life to ensure a plane full of passengers could safely take off following Friday’s devastating earthquake.

Per ABC News reports, personnel in the control tower at the Mutiara Sis Al Jufri Airport fled for their lives when news of the 7.5 magnitude quake came in, but Agung chose to remain at his post to guide a Batik Air flight, which was on the runway at the time.

The tower was starting to crack and crumble as the young air traffic controller gave his instructions, and once the plane was safely in the air, he took the risk of jumping from the fourth floor, suffering a broken leg and internal injuries.

He was rushed to hospital and airlifted out by helicopter for further treatment, but tragically, he passed away during the trip.

His actions were praised by a spokesman for Air Navigation Indonesia, who said that his decision to stay and give clearance to the flight potentially saved hundreds of lives.

The death toll from the massive earthquake, which sent tsunami waves crashing into the island of Sulawesi, currently stands at more than 420, but authorities expect that number to rise sharply as reports come in from remote areas that have been cut off from communication.

The region’s tsunami warning system has been slammed as inadequate in the wake of the disaster, as the closest sensor was more than 300km away, and only registered a small “six centimetre” wave, leading the initial tsumami warning to be lifted.

The geography of Palu Harbour meant that waves of up to six metres smashed the town, and footage from Indonesia’s Red Cross shows just some of the devastation, with buildings destroyed and streets lined with mud.

Source: ABC News
Image: AAP / AP