Tue, Dec 25, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Tsunami survivors sought as families mourn dead


Anak Krakatoa erupts in Lampung, Indonesia, on Sunday.

Photo: EPA-EFE

Indonesian government workers and volunteers yesterday searched debris-strewn beaches for survivors and bodies, while families tried to identify their loved ones and grieved for the dead after a nighttime tsunami struck without warning, killing more than 280 people.

The waves that swept terrified locals and tourists into the sea on Saturday night along the Sunda Strait followed an eruption and apparent landslide on Anak Krakatoa, or “Child of Krakatoa,” one of the world’s most infamous volcanic islands.

Indonesian National Agency for Disaster Management spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said that as of yesterday morning, 281 deaths had been confirmed and at least 1,016 people were injured.

Dozens remained missing from the disaster areas along the coastlines of western Java and southern Sumatra islands, and the numbers could increase once authorities hear from all stricken areas.

The Indonesian Medical Association of the worst-affected Banten region said that it sent doctors, medical supplies and equipment, and that many of the injured were in need of neuro and orthopedic surgery.

It said that most patients are domestic tourists who were visiting beaches during the long weekend ahead of Christmas.

It was the second deadly tsunami to hit seismically active Indonesia this year. A powerful earthquake triggered a tsunami that hit Sulawesi Island in September, giving residents a brief warning before the waves struck.

The worst-affected area was the Pandeglang region of Java’s Banten Province, which encompasses Ujung Kulon National Park and popular beaches, the disaster agency said.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo arrived at the disaster area by helicopter. On Sunday, he expressed his sympathy and ordered government agencies to respond quickly to the disaster.

In the city of Bandar Lampung on Sumatra island, hundreds of residents took refuge at the governor’s office, while at the popular resort area of Anyer beach on Java, some survivors wandered in the debris.

Yellow, orange and black body bags were laid out, and weeping relatives identified the dead.

Scientists, including those from the Indonesian Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysical Agency, said the tsunami could have been caused by landslides — either above ground or under the water — on the steep slope of the erupting volcano. The scientists also cited tidal waves caused by the full moon.

The 305m-high Anak Krakatoa lies on an island in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra islands, linking the Indian Ocean and the Java Sea. It has been erupting since June and did so again about 24 minutes before the tsunami, the geophysics agency said.

The volcanic island formed over years after the 1883 eruption of the Krakatoa volcano, one of the largest, most devastating in recorded history. That disaster killed more than 30,000 people, launched far-reaching tsunamis and created so much ash that day was turned to night in the area and a global temperature drop was recorded.

Most of the island sank into a volcanic crater under the sea and the area remained calm until the 1920s, when Anak Krakatoa began to rise from the site. It continues to grow each year and erupts periodically.

Gegar Prasetya, cofounder of the Tsunami Research Center Indonesia, said that Saturday’s tsunami was likely caused by a flank collapse — when a big section of a volcano’s slope gives way.

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