JAKARTA, Dec 23 — A tsunami killed at least 62 people and injured hundreds on the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra following an underwater landslide caused by the eruption of Anak Krakatau, officials said today.
Hundreds of homes and other buildings were “heavily damaged” in the tsunami which struck along the rim of the Sunda Strait late yesterday.
It 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.
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 December 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 December 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 yesterday.
“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