A tsunami killed at least 222 people and injured hundreds in the islands of Java and Sumatra in Indonesian following an underwater landslide caused by the erupting Anak Krakatau volcano, officials and media said on Sunday.
Hundreds of homes and other buildings were badly damaged when the tsunami struck along the rim of the Sunda Strait late on Saturday, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for the disaster mitigation agency, said.
Thousands of residents were forced to evacuate to higher ground. The disaster agency had raised the death toll to 222 from 168, with 843 injured and 28 missing. TV images showed the seconds when the tsunami hit the beach and residential areas in Pandeglang on Java island, dragging with it victims, debris, and large chunks of wood and metal.
Authorities said a warning siren went off in some areas.
The timing of the tsunami, over the Christmas holiday season, evoked memories of the Indian Ocean tsunami triggered by an earthquake on December 26 in 2004 killing 226,000 people in 13 countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia.
Authorities warned residents and tourists in coastal areas around the Sunda Strait to stay away from beaches until December 25. “Those who have evacuated, please do not return yet,” said Rahmat Triyono, an official at the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG).
President Joko Widodo said on Twitter that he had “ordered all relevant government agencies to immediately take emergency response steps, find victims and care for the injured”.
Vice President Jusuf Kalla told a news conference the death toll would “likely increase”.
Saturday’s tsunami was the latest in a series of tragedies that have struck Indonesia, a vast archipelago, this year.
Successive earthquakes flattened parts of the tourist island of Lombok, and a double quake-and-tsunami killed thousands on Sulawesi island. Nearly 200 people died when a Lion Air passenger plane crashed into the Java Sea in October.
Rescue workers and ambulances were finding it difficult to reach affected areas because some roads were blocked by debris from damaged houses, overturned cars and fallen trees.
Dramatic TV footage showed the seconds when the tsunami hit a concert at the event and washed away the stage where the band, Seventeen, was performing.
Anak Krakatau, an active volcano roughly halfway between Java and Sumatra, has been spewing ash and lava for months. It erupted again just after 9 p.m. on Saturday and the tsunami struck at around 9.30 p.m., according to BMKG.
The eruption of Krakatau in 1883 killed more than 36,000 people in a series of tsunamis. Anak Krakatau is the island that emerged from the area once occupied by Krakatau, which was destroyed in 1883. It first appeared in 1927 and has been growing ever since.
Neighbouring Malaysia and Australia both said they were ready to provide assistance if needed.
Indonesia regularly hit by quakes and tsunamis Indonesia sits on the seismically active Pacific Ring of Fire and is regularly hit by earthquakes. Some of the major quakes and tsunamis in recent years:
- 2004: A massive 9.1 magnitude quake on the western coast of Indonesia’s Aceh province in northern Sumatra on Dec. 26 triggered a tsunami that struck 14 countries, killing 226,000 people along the Indian Ocean coastline, more than half of them in Aceh.
- 2005: A series of strong quakes hit the western coast of Sumatra in late March and early April. Hundreds died in Nias Island, off the coast of Sumatra.
- 2006: A 6.8 magnitude quake hit south of Java, Indonesia’s most populated island, triggering a tsunami that smashed into the southern coast, killing nearly 700 people.
- 2009: A 7.6 magnitude quake struck near the city of Padang, capital of West Sumatra province. More than 1,100 people were killed.
- 2010: A 7.5 magnitude quake hit one of the Mentawai islands, off Sumatra, triggering a tsunami of up to 10 metres that destroyed dozens of villages and killed around 300 people.
- 2016: A shallow quake hit the Pidie Jaya regency in Aceh, causing destruction and panic as people were reminded by the devastation of the deadly 2004 quake and tsunami. No tsunami was triggered, but more than 100 were killed by fallen buildings.
- 2018: Major quakes hit Indonesia’s tourist island of Lombok, killing more than 500 people, mostly on the northern side of the island.
- 2018: More than 2,000 people were killed by a powerful earthquake and tsunami that hit the city of Palu, on the west coast of Sulawesi island. (Reuter)