PANDEGLANG, Indonesia – Indonesian authorities have confirmed the death of at least 281 people in the devastating tsunami that hit the Sunda Strait in the western part of the archipelago on Saturday night, which also left 1,016 injured. Emergency teams on Monday resumed rescue efforts.
According to the latest figures released by the National Agency for Disaster Management (BNPB), another 57 were missing and 11,687 displaced, Efe news reported. It added that there were still victims under the rubble.
Coastal residents near Indonesia’s Anak Krakatau volcano were warned earlier in the day to keep away from beaches amid fears it could trigger a new tsunami.
Head of BNPB, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, held a news conference in Java and said: “Recommendations from (the) Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysical Agency are that people should not carry out activities on the beach and stay away from the coast for a while,” he said.
“The potential for a fresh tsunami is still possible because the volcanic eruption of Anak Krakatau continues to occur, potentially triggering a tsunami.”
The disaster on Saturday thought to be caused by an underwater landslide triggered by the eruption of nearby Anak Krakatau volcano in the Sunda Strait, damaged 611 houses, 69 hotels, 60 shops and 420 boats.
About 25 minutes after the eruption, a giant wave hit beaches, causing casualties and damaging houses, hotels and boats, mainly in the province of Banten, northern Java.
Pandeglang in Banten is the most affected area. It is about 100 kilometres north of the capital Jakarta and serves as a weekend getaway for its residents.
The BNPB said the casualties and damage were found in the districts of Pandeglang, Serang, South Lampung, Tanggamus and Pesawaran in Baten and Lampung (Sumatra) provinces.
Indonesia does not have a tsunami early warning system triggered by underwater landslides and volcanic activity, Nugroho told the media on Monday. The current warning system is activated by earthquakes.
He added that there were no observable signs of a tsunami so people did not have time to evacuate.
At present all recorded fatalities are Indonesian, and the toll is expected to increase.
Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres) is providing assistance to local health services, while the UN has offered humanitarian and logistical assistance, mainly for transport and to set up mobile kitchens. The Indonesian Red Cross is providing first aid.
“Current emergency handling priorities are coordination, evacuation, search and rescue of victims, health services, handling refugees, repairing emergency damaged infrastructure,” the BNPB said Monday.
Anak Krakatau (Child of Krakatoa), with an altitude of about 300 metre, which grows by about 6.8 meters per year, was formed as a result of the 1883 explosion of the legendary Krakatoa, which cost the lives of more than 36,000 people.
According to historical records, the explosions were so violent that they were heard 5,000 km away and ash columns reached 80 km high. The effects of the eruption were felt around the world for weeks.
Indonesia sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area of great seismic and volcanic activity that is shaken every year by some 7,000 earthquakes, most of them are moderate.
Between the last July and August, several earthquakes caused 564 deaths on the island of Lombok, while an earthquake followed by a tsunami caused more than 2,000 deaths on the island of Sulawesi in September.
The Sunda Strait tsunami occurred four days before the anniversary of the Indian Ocean tsunami that hit northern Sumatra and another 14 countries on Dec. 26, 2004, leaving 226,500 dead and missing, mostly in Indonesia.
Graphic of disaster zone https://tmsnrt.rs/2RdjsMd
Authorities warned residents and tourists in coastal areas around the Sunda Strait to stay away from beaches and a high-tide warning remained in place until Dec. 25 as officials evaluate the risks and try to determine the exact cause of the disaster.
“Those who have evacuated, please do not return yet,” said Rahmat Triyono, an official at the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG).
President Joko Widodo, who is running for re-election in April, told reporters he had “ordered all relevant government agencies to immediately take emergency response measures, find victims and care for the injured”.
Vice President Jusuf Kalla warned that the death toll would “likely increase”.
Heavy equipment is being moved in to help with rescue efforts as well as water and sanitation equipment. The military said it was deploying troops to distribute aid and blankets, as well as sending in medics.
The western coast of Banten province in Java, Indonesia’s most populated island, was the worst-hit area, Nugroho told reporters, adding that at least 35 people were reported dead in Lampung in southern Sumatra.
With the exact cause of the disaster still unknown, authorities are wary of the risk of a recurrence. Public works minister Basuki Hadimuljono said, “emergency operations would be continuously carried out, but would stop at the stop at the first sign of possible high tides”.
Television footage showed how the tsunami washed away an outdoor stage where a local rock band was performing for hundreds of guests at an end-of-year party for state utility company PLN.
Four of the musicians from the band, Seventeen, were killed, along with 29 PLN employees and relatives.
“The water washed away the stage which was located very close to the sea,” the band said in a statement. “The water rose and dragged away everyone at the location. We have lost loved ones, including our bassist and manager … and others are missing.”
Police officers rescued a young boy who was trapped in a car buried under fallen trees and rubble for nearly 12 hours, according to a video of his rescue posted on Twitter by the Indonesian National Police.
The tsunami was caused by “an undersea landslide resulting from volcanic activity on Anak Krakatau” and was exacerbated by abnormally high tides because of the full moon, Nugroho said.
Anak Krakatau, which lies roughly halfway between Java and Sumatra, has been spewing ash and lava for months. It erupted again just after 9 p.m. on Saturday and the tsunami struck at around 9.30 p.m., according to BMKG.
Ben van der Pluijm, an earthquake geologist and a professor in the University of Michigan, said the tsunami may have been caused by a “partial collapse” of Anak Krakatau.
“Instability of the slope of an active volcano can create a rock slide that moves a large volume of water, creating local tsunami waves that can be very powerful. This is like suddenly dropping a bag of sand in a tub filled with water,” he said.
The eruption of Krakatau, previously known as Krakatoa, in 1883 killed more than 36,000 people in a series of tsunamis.
Anak Krakatau, which means child of Krakatau, is the island that emerged from the area once occupied by Krakatau, which was destroyed in 1883. It first appeared in 1927 and has been growing ever since.
(Additional reporting by Fanny Potkin, Tabita Diela, Jessica Damiana, Wilda Asmarini in Jakarta; Writing by Fergus Jensen, Kanupriya Kapoor and Lincoln Feast; Editing by Alison Williams and David Stamp)