A volcano-triggered tsunami has left at least 222 people dead and hundreds more injured after slamming without warning into beaches around Indonesia’s Sunda Strait, officials said yesterday, voicing fears that the toll would rise further.
Hundreds of buildings were destroyed by the wave, which hit the coast of southern Sumatra and the western tip of Java at about 9:30pm on Saturday, after a volcano known as the “child” of Krakatoa erupted, Indonesian Disaster Management Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.
Video footage posted on social media showed a wall of water suddenly crashing into a concert by pop group Seventeen — hurling band members off the stage and then flooding into the audience.
In a tearful Instagram post, frontman Riefian Fajarsyah said the band’s bassist and road manager had been killed, and his wife was missing.
Search-and-rescue teams were scouring the rubble for survivors, with 222 people confirmed dead, 843 people injured and 28 missing, Nugroho said.
Tsunamis triggered by volcanic eruptions are relatively rare, caused by the sudden displacement of water or “slope failure,” the International Tsunami Information Center said.
Unlike those caused by earthquakes, which trigger alert systems, they give authorities very little time to warn residents of the impending threat.
The destructive wave left a trail of uprooted trees and debris strewn across beaches. A tangled mess of corrugated steel roofing, timber and rubble was dragged inland at Carita Beach, a popular spot for day-trippers on the west coast of Java.
Photographer Oystein Andersen described how he was caught up in the disaster while on the beach taking photographs of Anak Krakatoa.
“I suddenly saw a big wave,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
“I had to run, as the wave passed the beach and landed 15-20m inland. [The] next wave entered the hotel area where I was staying and downed cars on the road behind it.”
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 reporters.
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 said.
Kathy Mueller from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said the toll was likely to rise as the conditions on the ground became clearer.
“The situation, and the death toll, will remain fluid over the next days and even weeks,” she said.
Aid workers were helping to evacuate the injured and bring in clean water, tarpaulins and provide shelter, she said, adding that the group was preparing for the possibility of diseases breaking out in the tsunami zone.
Anak Krakatoa, which forms a small island in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra, emerged in about 1928 in the crater left by Krakatoa, which erupted in 1883, killing at least 36,000 people.
“The cause of the undersea landslide was due to volcanic activity of Anak Krakatoa, which coincided with a high tide due to the full moon,” Nugroho told reporters in Yogyakarta.
Professor David Rothery from The Open University said that the proximity of the volcano to the coast gave authorities very little time to act.
“Tsunami warning buoys are positioned to warn of tsunamis originated by earthquakes at underwater tectonic plate boundaries. Even if there had been such a buoy right next to Anak Krakatau, this is so close to the affected shorelines that warning time would have been minimal given the high speeds at which tsunami waves travel,” he said.
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