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Death toll rising after Indonesia 'volcano' tsunami destroys hundreds of homes and resorts

Sydney Morning Herald - December 23, 2018

James Massola & Matt Wade Indonesia is reeling from its second deadly tsunami in three months after a "high-wave event" inundated beaches and towns on the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra on Saturday night.

The death toll from the tsunami, apparently caused by volcanic activity on the island of Anak Krakatau, reached 168 late on Sunday with 745 injured. But many more people are missing and Indonesian officials warned the toll is "likely to grow".

The disaster struck without warning around 9.30pm local time leaving scenes of devastation along both the western coast of Java and the southern coast of Sumatra. Hundreds of homes, hotels and other buildings have been destroyed or are badly damaged, officials said.

Among those to have perished in the natural disaster were the band manager and bassist for the Jakarta pop band "Seventeen", who were performing at resort in Tanjung Lesung when a wave collapsed the stage from behind. Others were missing.

Chilling television footage shows the band performing on stage when the wave strikes and sweeps them into the audience.

At the coastal district of Pandeglang at least 33 people died, 500 were injured and nine hotels were "severely damaged."

The spokesman for Indonesia's disaster management agency, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, said there were "many tourists visiting the beaches along Pandeglang" when the disaster hit.

He said Indonesian officials are now "conducting studies to ascertain the cause of the tsunami and the probability of additional ones."

Along the beach front in the Anyer district, on the west coast of the island of Java, cars were overturned, buildings severely damaged and trees ripped from the ground.

Some villages were like ghost towns, with locals who fled the wave yet to return, while others not lucky enough to escape being swept away by the deadly tide.

At a small government-run medical clinic by the beach, one of many along the road in the affected areas, survivors gathered to get medical care. They wore shocked looks on their faces as they received medical attention and tried to account for missing loved ones.

At one small site, 12 people, including three children, were killed. Another 33 people were injured and 36 were listed as missing. The dead were a combination of locals and tourists in what is a popular holiday area for Indonesians, a local official said.

The pre-Christmas tsunami is the latest in a series of natural disasters in Indonesia during 2018, including earthquake and tsunami which struck the Palu region on the island of Indonesian island of Sulewesi in late September, killing more than 2000. An earthquake also rocked the resort island of Lombok in August.

Saturday night's inundation also comes 14 years, almost to the day, since the Boxing Day tsunami, which was triggered by an earthquake off the north coast of Sumatra and killed more than 150,000 people in Indonesia, mostly in Aceh province.

The Indonesian archipelago is located on what is called the "ring of fire" around the Pacific, where most of the world's active volcanoes are located and which is prone to earthquakes.

Krakatoa is about 156km west of the Indonesian capital, Jakarta. Its eruption in 1883 was one of the deadliest volcanic eruptions in the world, killing more than 36,000 people.

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the Australian Embassy in Jakarta was "making urgent enquiries to determine whether any Australians have been affected by the tidal wave that hit beaches in the Sunda Strait area."

Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, said the "high-wave event" was a "terrible blow" for Indonesia.

"We understand that at present there are no foreigners, let alone Australians, who have been impacted by this...This comes on top of what happened in Sulawesi and so, as always, we're available to support the Indonesian government with these things, as requested."

Mr Morrison said there had been no requests for assistance, and he was not anticipating any on this stage.

Oystein Lund Andersen, an employee of the Norwegian embassy in Jakarta, was on holidays in Anyer, on the Javanese coast with his family when the wave hit.

"I was by myself at the beach photographing the well known volcano Anak Krakatau, when I suddenly saw a big wave," he wrote in a Facebook post.

"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."

It is possible the tsunami was caused by undersea landslides triggered by volcanic activity on Anak Krakatau.

Rahmat Riyono, the head of Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) said another tsunami was possible because Saturday night's wave had been caused by an eruption of the Anak-Krakatau volcano, rather than an earthquake.

"We are waiting for a status update from Anak-Krakatau. The chance of a tsunami returning a second time is very small if it caused by an earthquake. But since this is caused by an eruption, it is a different case. We have to continue monitor."

"There was no early warning, because it's a tsunami caused by a volcano. We urge people to stay away from Anak-Krakatau and the beach."

-- with Lucy Cormack, Amilia Rosa and Cassandra Morgan

Source: https://www.smh.com.au/world/asia/death-toll-rising-after-indonesia-volcano-tsunami-destroys-hundreds-of-homes-and-resorts-20181223-p50o0n.html.

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