Tsunami set off by volcano sweeps Indonesia coast; hundreds dead
A tsunami apparently caused by the eruption of an island volcano has killed more than 160 people around Indonesia's Sunda Strait during a busy holiday weekend
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — A tsunami that occurred after the eruption of a volcano killed more than 160 people around Indonesia's Sunda Strait during a busy holiday weekend, sending water crashing ashore and sweeping away hotels, hundreds of houses and people attending a beach concert.
More than 700 people were reported injured after the tsunami hit at 9:27 p.m. Saturday, the Disaster Management Agency said. At least 30 others were missing, but the toll could continue to rise because some areas had not yet been reached.
Scientists, including those from Indonesia's Meteorology and Geophysics agency, said the tsunami could have been caused by undersea landslides or those occurring above sea level on the volcano's steep outside slope following the eruption of Anak Krakatau. It translates to "Child of Krakatoa," a volcanic island formed over years after one of the largest eruptions in recorded history occurred at the Krakatoa volcano more than a century ago. The scientists also cited tidal waves caused by the full moon.
Dramatic footage posted on social media showed an Indonesian pop band named "Seventeen" performing under a tent on a popular beach at a concert for employees of the state-owned electricity company. Dozens of people sat listening at tables covered in white cloths while others bobbed to the music near the stage as bright strobe lights flashed.
A child could also be seen wandering through the crowd. Seconds later, with the drummer pounding just as the next song was about to begin, the stage suddenly heaved forward and buckled from the force of the water, throwing the band and all their equipment into the audience.
The group released a statement saying their bass player and road manager were found dead, while three other members and the wife of one of the performers remained missing.
"The tide rose to the surface and dragged all the people on site," the statement said. "Unfortunately, when the current receded our members are unable to save themselves while some did not find a place to hold on."
Tourists were also affected during the long holiday weekend ahead of Christmas.
"I had to run, as the wave passed the beach and landed 15-20m (meters, or 50-65 feet) inland," Norwegian Oystein Lund Andersen wrote on Facebook. The self-described photographer and volcano enthusiast said he was taking pictures of the volcano when he suddenly saw a big wave come toward him.
"Next wave entered the hotel area where I was staying and downed cars on the road behind it," he wrote. "Managed to evacuate with my family to higher ground (through) forest paths and villages, where we are taken care of (by) the locals. Were unharmed, thankfully."
The worst-affected area was the Pandeglang region of Java island's Banten province, which encompasses Ujung Kulon National Park and popular beaches, the disaster agency said.
Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said 168 deaths had been confirmed and at least 745 people were injured. Rescue workers were still trying to access other affected areas.
Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo expressed his sympathy and ordered government agencies to respond quickly to the disaster.
"My deep condolences to the victims in Banten and Lumpung provinces," he said. "Hopefully, those who are left have patience."
In the city of Bandar Lampung on Sumatra island, hundreds of residents took refuge at the governor's office.
Alif, a resident of Pandeglang district who goes by one name, told MetroTV station that many people were still searching for missing relatives.
The Anak Krakatau volcano lies in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra islands, linking the Indian Ocean and Java Sea. It erupted about 24 minutes before the tsunami, the geophysics agency said.
The 305-meter (1,000-foot) -high volcano, about 200 kilometers (124 miles) southwest of Jakarta, the capital, has been erupting since June. In July, authorities widened its no-go areas to 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from the crater.
However, Anak Krakatau remains much smaller than Krakatoa when it blew in 1883, killing more than 30,000 people. Krakatoa launched far-reaching tsunamis and created so much ash, day was turned to night in the area and a global temperature drop was recorded. The violent explosions sank most of the island into the volcanic crater under the sea, and the area remained calm until the 1920s, when Anak Krakatau began to rise from the site. It continues to grow each year and periodically erupts.
Gegar Prasetya, co-founder of the Tsunami Research Center Indonesia, said Saturday's tsunami was likely caused by a flank collapse — when a big section of a volcano's slope gives way. He said it's possible for an eruption to trigger a landslide above ground or beneath the ocean, both capable of producing waves.
"Actually, the tsunami was not really big, only 1 meter (3.3 feet)," said Prasetya, who has closely studied Krakatoa. "The problem is people always tend to build everything close to the shoreline."
Nine hotels, 430 homes and 10 vessels were heavily damaged. Footage posted by the head of the disaster agency showed the aftermath of flooded streets and an overturned car.
In September, more than 2,500 people were killed by a quake and tsunami that hit the city of Palu on the island of Sulawesi, which is just east of Borneo.
Saturday's tsunami triggered memories for some of the massive magnitude 9.1 earthquake that hit on Dec. 26, 2004. It spawned a giant tsunami off Sumatra island in western Indonesia, killing more than 230,000 people in a dozen countries — the majority in Indonesia. The vast archipelago of more than 17,000 islands is home to 260 million people and lies along the "Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin.
Roads and infrastructure are poor in many areas of disaster-prone Indonesia, making access difficult in the best of conditions.
Associated Press writer Niniek Karmini contributed to this report.