Indonesia tsunami: Heavy rains hamper rescuers' efforts to reach remote villages

Indonesia tsunami: Heavy rains hamper rescuers' efforts to reach remote villages

Anak Krakatoa volcano sits in the middle of the Sundra Strait separating Java and Sumatra
Lightning seen along the Sunda Strait between the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra on Tuesday (Dec 25). (Photo: AFP/MOHD RASFAN)

SUMUR, Indonesia: Indonesian rescue teams on Wednesday (Dec 26) struggled to reach remote areas on the western coast of Java amid torrential rain after a tsunami last week that killed more than 400 people.

Heavy rain lashed fishing villages along the coast, muddying roads and holding up convoys delivering heavy machinery and aid to isolated areas while authorities urged residents to stay away from the shore in case of further waves.

READ: Indonesia issues 'extreme weather' warning for tsunami-hit coast near Krakatoa

READ: 'Run to the hills': Tsunami fears spark chaos in Indonesia town

Floods as deep as 1.5m were reported in four villages within the Labuan regency, according to local news outlet Tribun. Other than locals' houses, a makeshift kitchen for tsunami evacuees was also flooded.

A video posted on social media shows what appears to be two men on a boat going through the flooded area.

"This is the latest situation at Lebak Tanjung Village in Labuan regency. Water has entered the homes of residents," says one of the men.

Some locals were evacuated to Labuan's police post, while others stayed at local convenience stores that were safe from the floods, the Tribun report added.

A local resident attributed the flood that is "chest-deep" to the overflowing of a river and the high tide from the sea, as well as clogged drainage.


Clouds of ash spewed from the nearby Anak Krakatoa, or child of Krakatau, almost obscuring the volcanic island where a crater collapse at high tide on Saturday sent waves up to 5 metres high smashing into the coast on the Sunda Strait, between Java and Sumatra islands.

The tsunami was Indonesia's third major natural disaster in six months
The tsunami was Indonesia's third major natural disaster in six months AFP/Sonny TUMBELAKA

The powerful tsunami struck Saturday night without warning, sweeping over popular beaches and
The powerful tsunami struck Saturday night without warning, sweeping over popular beaches and inundating tourist hotels and coastal communities AFP/Sonny TUMBELAKA

Indonesia's meteorology agency (BMKG) said the rough weather could make the volcano's crater more fragile.

"We have developed a monitoring system focused specifically on the volcanic tremors at Anak Krakatau so that we can issue early warnings," said BMKG head Dwikorita Karnawati, adding that a two-kilometre exclusion zone had been imposed.

The confirmed death toll is 430, with at least 159 people missing. Nearly 1,500 people were injured and over 21,000 people have evacuated to higher ground.

Grief-stricken relatives lined up at identification centres, but hopes of finding any survivors
Grief-stricken relatives lined up at identification centres, but hopes of finding any survivors beneath the rubble have dwindled AFP/SONNY TUMBELAKA

A state of emergency has been declared until Jan 4, which authorities hope will make it easier to deploy assistance, said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for the national disaster mitigation agency.

READ: Prayers, fear in tsunami-struck Indonesian towns as toll tops 400

Search and rescue teams were focused on the town of Sumur near the southwest tip of Java, but "the roads are damaged and clogged" and helicopters had to be deployed to carry out assessments and evacuations, he added.

Volunteers were having to piece together makeshift bridges out of concrete blocks after the waves washed away infrastructure along the coast.

The latest death toll stood at 429, with 1,485 people injured and another 154 still missing
The latest death toll stood at 429, with 1,485 people injured and another 154 still missing AFP/Gal ROMA

Indonesia is a vast archipelago that sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire". This year, the country has suffered its worst annual death toll from disasters in more than a decade.

The latest disaster, coming during the Christmas season, evoked memories of the Indian Ocean tsunami triggered by an earthquake on Dec 26, 2004, which killed 226,000 people in 14 countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia.

The Saturday evening tsunami followed the collapse of an area of the volcano island of about 64 hectares, or about 90 soccer pitches.

READ: Another tsunami could hit Indonesia, experts warn

The waves engulfed fishing villages and holiday resorts, leaving a coast littered with the matchwood of homes, crushed vehicles and fallen trees. Children's toys and rides at a seaside carnival in Sumur were left scattered along a swampy beach.

The surge of seawater also left dozens of turtles, weighing several kilograms, stranded on land, and some volunteer rescuers worked to carry them back to the sea.

On Sebesi Island in the middle of the Sunda Strait, helicopters had been dispatched to evacuate residents.

READ: Indonesia tsunami: 5-year-old boy rescued alive from car wreck

Along the coast, thousands of people are staying in tents and temporary shelters like mosques or schools, with dozens sleeping on the floor or in crowded public facilities. Rice and instant noodles have been delivered to many shelters, but clean water, wet weather gear, fresh clothes, and blankets are in short supply, some evacuees said.

Ade Hasanah, 45, staying in an emergency centre with her children, said people were being told not to return to their homes.

"It's safe here," she said. "We hope if the children are safe and the situation is stable, we can go home quickly. We're restless."

In 1883, the volcano then known as Krakatoa erupted in one of the biggest blasts in recorded history, killing more than 36,000 people in a series of tsunamis and lowering the global surface temperature by one degree Celsius with its ash.

Anak Krakatau is the island that emerged from the area in 1927 and has been growing ever since.

Source: Reuters/aa

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