Indonesia tsunami: Death toll rises to 222, hundreds more injured

Indonesia tsunami: Death toll rises to 222, hundreds more injured

Bodies of tsunami victims are collected at a local health facility after a tsunami hit Carita in Pa
Bodies of tsunami victims are collected at a local health facility after a tsunami hit Carita in Pandeglang, Banten province, Indonesia, December 23, 2018 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Asep Fathulrahman/ via REUTERS

JAKARTA: Indonesia's disaster agency said 222 people were dead and hundreds more injured after a tsunami struck coastal areas around the Sunda Strait between the islands of Sumatra and Java on Saturday (Dec 22) night.

"222 people are dead, 843 people are injured and 28 people are missing," Indonesia's national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said on Sunday evening.

"This number is predicted to increase because not all victims have been successfully evacuated, not all health centres have reported victims and not all locations have got complete data."

He said that all the casualties were Indonesian citizens, with no foreign national casualties reported. The victims and damage occurred across four affected districts, namely in the Pandeglang, Serang, South Lampung and Tanggamus regencies, he added.

Hundreds of buildings were destroyed by the wave, which hit the coast of southern Sumatra and the western tip of Java about 9.30 pm (1430 GMT) following the eruption of a volcano known as the "child" of the legendary Krakatoa, national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.

Earlier on Sunday, the spokesperson had said that search and rescue teams were scouring rubble for survivors, with 168 confirmed dead, 745 people injured and 30 reported missing across three regions.

"We're recapping reports of impacts from the tsunami that struck in the Sunda Strait, particularly Serang, Pandeglang and South Lampung," he told Metro TV in an earlier statement on Sunday morning, referring to the tidal wave linked to an earlier eruption of Anak Krakatau volcano.

Authorities say the tsunami may have been triggered by an underwater landslide following the eruption of Anak Krakatau, which forms a small island in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said the "powerful waves" reached a height of 30 to 90cm.

Video footage posted to social media by Nugroho showed panicked residents clutching flashlights and fleeing for higher ground.

Rescuers carry body of a tsunami victim in Indonesia
Rescuers carry the body of a victim at a makeshift mortuary in Carita on Dec 23, 2018. (Photo: AFP / Demy Sanjaya)

Indonesian authorities initially claimed the wave was not a tsunami, but instead a tidal surge and urged the public not to panic.

Nugroho later apologised for the mistake on Twitter, saying because there was no earthquake it had been difficult to ascertain the cause of the incident early on.

"If there is an initial error we're sorry," he wrote.

The wave swamped parts of the coast around the Sunda Strait, but was most damaging in Pandeglang district, on Java's western tip.

Heavy equipment was being transported to badly-hit areas to help search for victims, Nugroho said, adding evacuation posts and public kitchens were being set up for evacuees.

Meanwhile, people injured have been rushed to health facilities to receive treatment. 

Television footage showed roads blocked by debris from damaged houses, overturned cars and fallen trees. 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 through till Dec 25.

"Please do not be around the beaches around the Sunda Strait. Those who have evacuated, please do not return yet," said Rahmat Triyono, head of the meteorological agency.

Damaged buildings in Carita after tsunami
Damaged buildings in Carita on Dec 23, 2018, after the area was hit by a tsunami. (Photo: AFP / RONALD)

President Joko Widodo, who is running for re-election in April, said on Twitter that he had "ordered all relevant government agencies to immediately take emergency response steps, find victims and care for the injured".

He expressed his "deep sorrow for the fallen tsunami victims Pandeglang, Serang and South Lampung".

Vice President Jusuf Kalla told a news conference the death toll would "likely increase".

READ: Wave crashes into pop band Seventeen's concert

Anak Krakatoa
A map showing the location of Anak Krakatoa volcano between Southern Sumatra and Western Java. (Photo: Google Maps)


Photographer Oystein Lund Andersen said he captured a photo of the volcano erupting, just before the huge waves hit the beach he was at. 

"I had to run, as the wave passed the beach and landed 15-20m inland. Next wave entered the hotel area where I was staying and downed cars on the road behind it. Managed to evacuate with my family to higher ground through forest paths and villages, where we are taken care of my the locals," he said on Facebook.

Asep Perangkat said he was with his family when the wave surged through Carita, carving a swathe of destruction, dragging cars and shipping containers.

"Buildings on the edge of the beach were destroyed. Trees and electric poles fell to the ground," he told AFP.

In Lampung province, on the other side of the strait, Lutfi Al Rasyid fled the beach in Kalianda city, fearing for his life.

"I could not start my motorbike so I left it and I ran ... I just prayed and ran as far as I could," the 23-year-old told AFP.

Although relatively rare, submarine volcanic eruptions can cause tsunamis due to the sudden displacement of water or slope failure, according to the International Tsunami Information Centre.

Anak Krakatoa is a small volcanic island that emerged from the ocean half a century after Krakatoa's deadly 1883 eruption which killed more than 36,000 people.

READ: Indonesia 'volcano' tsunami: What might have caused it?

According to Indonesia's geological agency, Anak Krakatoa had been showing signs of heightened activity for days, spewing plumes of ash thousands of metres into the air.

The volcano erupted again just after 9pm on Saturday, the agency said.

An eruption just before 4pm on Saturday lasted around 13 minutes and sent plumes of ash soaring hundreds of metres into the sky.

Rescuers remove the body of a tsunami victim
Rescuers remove the body of a victim from a damaged building in Carita on Dec 23, 2018. (Photo: AFP / RONALD)

Indonesia, one of the most disaster-prone nations on earth, straddles the so-called Pacific "Ring of Fire", where tectonic plates collide and a large portion of the world's volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur.

Most recently in the city of Palu on Sulawesi island a quake and tsunami in September killed thousands of people.

On Dec 26, 2004 a tsunami triggered by a magnitude-9.3 undersea earthquake off the coast of Sumatra in western Indonesia killed 220,000 people in countries around the Indian Ocean, including 168,000 in Indonesia.

Anak Krakatoa is one of 127 active volcanoes which run the length of the archipelago.

Source: Agencies/mn/nc