'Run, a wave is coming!': Panic and devastation after Indonesia tsunami

'Run, a wave is coming!': Panic and devastation after Indonesia tsunami

Indonesia tsunami aftermath in Carita 1
An Indonesian soldier (C) stands amid debris in Carita, Banten province on Dec 24, 2018, two days after a tsunami - caused by activity at a volcano known as the "child" of Krakatoa - hit the west coast of Indonesia's Java island. (Photo: AFP / ADEK BERRY)

LABUAN, Indonesia: Indonesian fisherman Yadi was at his seaside home on the west coast of Java island when he felt a light breeze picking up on Saturday night (Dec 22) as hundreds of people milled about in nearby restaurants, enjoying barbecued fish.

Then a surge of seawater swept up the beach, scattering the crowds, flattening buildings, and sending parked cars crunching into trees.

At least 281 people were killed in tsunami waves of up to 3m that hit several towns along the rim of the Sunda Strait, between Java and Sumatra islands, triggered by a landslide on the Anak Krakatoa volcano.

It is the latest in a string of natural disasters to strike Indonesia in 2018, making it the deadliest year in more than a decade.

"People said 'run, run a wave is coming!'. There were three waves in a row," said Yadi, a middle-aged fisherman who operates a fleet of six vessels that were among dozens that sank or were dragged out to sea by the waves.

"There was a real panic. Many people were left behind," he said, adding that he and his family escaped by running to higher ground.

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

What's left behind is a wasteland of collapsed houses and hotels and muddy roads strewn with twisted metal and wood.

Thousands of displaced and grieving residents were searching for missing loved ones on Monday and trying to salvage whatever they could of their belongings.

READ: Indonesia's tsunami buoy warning system not working since 2012: Official

Heavy equipment was being used to help with the rescue effort. Medics were sent in with the military, while groups of police and soldiers searched remote areas.

Cici Paramita, 27, was clambering through the shattered remains of her house, a tangle of water-logged debris, 50m from the beach.

"We lost all our belongings," she said.

On Saturday night, she said she had to wade through waist-deep water to rescue her eight-year-old son who was trapped in debris.

"A SOUND LIKE THE WIND - 'WHOOSH'"

Asep Sunaria heard a loud "whoosh" just seconds before a wall of water threw him off his motorbike, swallowing his house and the village he called home.

As rescuers hunted for survivors, 42-year-old Sunaria was trying to come to grips with a disaster that struck without warning.

"The water came from over there with a sound like the wind - 'whoosh'," he recounted to AFP.

"I was shocked. I didn't expect it at all - there was no warning ... At first I thought it was just a tidal wave but the water rose so high."

He and his family sprinted from Sukarame village to higher ground, leaving them with only the clothes on their back.

"My family are safe but my house has been destroyed - everything's gone," said Sunaria.

"Now I'm looking for bodies that have not been found. We only found one yesterday and we're looking for spots where more bodies could still be buried."

Another villager, Sunarti, waded through knee-deep water as she searched for belongings outside her destroyed house.

"We found two dead bodies over there yesterday," the 61-year-old indicated.

Sunarti said her 100-year-old mother survived and was staying at higher ground until they could be sure there would be no more killer waves - something experts have warned remains a serious risk.

"My life was already tough," Sunarti, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, told AFP.

"We're very poor and now this happens"

Down the road in Cilurah village, survivor Ade Junaedi said he witnessed nature's fury firsthand.

"It happened very quickly," he said.

"I was chatting with a guest at our place when my wife opened the door and she suddenly let out a panicked scream. I thought there was a fire, but when I walked to the door I saw the water coming."

Back in Sukarame village, Sunarti and her hungry neighbours waited for outside aid to arrive in their stricken community.

"There's been no help at all so far," she said.

"Some people are starving."

Source: Agencies/nc

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