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Volcano-triggered tsunami hits Indonesia, 222 dead


Residents inspect a house damaged by tsunami, in Carita, Indonesia on Sunday. – AP/PTI
 CARITA, Dec 23 - A volcano-triggered tsunami has left at least 222 people dead and hundreds more injured after slamming without warning into beaches around Indonesia’s Sunda Strait, officials said on Sunday, voicing fears that the toll would rise further.

Hundreds of buildings were destroyed by the wave, which hit the coast of southern Sumatra and the western tip of Java about 9:30 pm (1430 GMT) on Saturday after a volcano known as the “child” of Krakatoa erupted, national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.

Dramatic video posted on social media showed a wall of water suddenly crashing into a concert by pop group ‘Seventeen’ – hurling band members off the stage and then flooding into the audience. Search and rescue teams were scouring rubble for survivors, with 222 people confirmed dead, 843 people injured and 28 missing, Nugroho said.

Tsunamis triggered by volcanic eruptions are relatively rare, caused by the sudden displacement of water or “slope failure”, according to the International Tsunami Information Centre. Unlike those triggered by earthquakes, they give authorities no time to warn residents of the impending threat.

The destructive wave left a trail of uprooted trees and debris strewn across beaches. A tangled mess of corrugated steel roofing, timber and rubble was dragged inland at Carita beach, a popular spot for day-trippers on the west coast of Java.

Kathy Mueller from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said the toll was likely to rise as the conditions on the ground became clearer. Teams of aid workers were helping to evacuate the injured and bring in clean water, tarpaulins and provide shelter, she added, saying the group was preparing for the possibility of diseases breaking out in the tsunami zone.

Anak Krakatoa, which forms a small island in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra, emerged around 1928 in the crater left by Krakatoa, which erupted in 1883 killing at least 36,000 people.

“The cause of the undersea landslide was due to volcanic activity of Anak Krakatoa, which coincided with a high tide due to the full moon,” Nugroho told reporters in Yogyakarta. He also said the death toll would likely increase.

Indonesian authorities initially claimed the wave was not a tsunami, but instead a tidal surge and urged the public not to panic. Nugroho later apologised for the mistake on Twitter, saying because there was no earthquake it had been difficult to ascertain the cause of the incident early on.

The wave swamped parts of the coast around the Sunda Strait, leaving at least 164 people dead in worst affected Pandeglang district on Java’s western tip. Large numbers of casualties were recorded at two hotels in the area. Eleven people died further north in Serang, while 48 were killed in South Lampung, on Sumatra island. – AFP

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