World

Volcano-triggered tsunami kills at least 43 in Indonesia

Hundreds injured, many missing and death toll expected to rise in the aftermath of underwater landslide caused by Anak Krakatau's eruption

A tsunami killed at least 43 people on the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra and injured hundreds following an underwater landslide caused by the eruption of Krakatau, officials said on Sunday (Dec 23).

Some 584 people were injured and hundreds of homes and other buildings were “heavily damaged” in the tsunami which struck along the rim of the Sunda Strait late on Saturday.

TV footage showed roads blocked by debris from damaged houses, overturned cars and fallen trees. The water washed away an outdoor stage where a local rock band was performing, killing at least one musician. Others were missing.

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.

On Dec 26 in 2004, an Indian Ocean tsunami triggered by an earthquake killed 226,000 people in 13 countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia. The eruption of Krakatau in 1883 killed more than 36,000 people in a series of tsunamis.

Endan Permana, head of the disaster mitigation agency in Pandeglang, told Metro TV police were providing assistance to victims in Tanjung Lesung in Banten province, a popular tourist getaway not far from the capital, Jakarta, as emergency workers had not arrived.

“Many are missing,” Permana said.

More than 100 employees of the state utility company PLN had gathered in Tanjung Lesung for an end-of-year event, company spokesman I Made Suprateka told Reuters.

Dramatic TV footage showed the seconds when waves hit a concert at the event and washed away the stage where local rock band Seventeen was performing.

“The water washed away the stage which was located very close to the sea,” the band said in a statement. “The water rose and dragged away everyone at the location. We have lost loved ones, including our bassist and manager...and others are missing.”

The disaster mitigation agency said it was still compiling information on the disaster and there was a “possibility that data on the victims and damage will increase”.

The tsunami was caused by “an undersea landslide resulting from volcanic activity on Anak Krakatau” and was exacerbated by abnormally high tide because of the current full moon, disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.

According to a statement from the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), Krakatau erupted at just after 9pm and the tsunami struck at around 9.30pm on Saturday.

“The tsunami hit several areas of the Sunda Strait, including beaches in Pandeglang regency, Serang, and South Lampung,” the agency said.

Nugroho told Metro TV that tsunamis triggered by volcanic eruptions were “rare” and that the Sunda Strait tsunami had not resulted from an earthquake.

“There was no earthquake, and the Anak Krakatau eruption also wasn’t that big,” Nugroho told Metro TV, noting there were no “significant” seismic tremors to indicate a tsunami was coming.

The eruption created a column of volcanic ash up to 500 metres high. - REUTERS

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