JAKARTA – Rescuers trying to find survivors and victims of a tsunami that struck the Indonesian coast without warning on Saturday evening have managed to reach previously inaccessible areas, as the death toll in the disaster spiked to 373.
Over 1,450 people were injured and 128 were still unaccounted for, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said.
“Some of the areas that were hard to reach because of blocked access have now been accessible and heavy machinery has been deployed, resulting in more victims being found,” agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said on Monday.
The number of those displaced by the destructive wave surge meanwhile decreased from more than 11,000 to 5,361.
“The number has decreased because many have returned to their homes,” Nugruho explained. “They moved to shelters yesterday because of rumours of another potential tsunami.”
The tsunami that hit stretches of the Indonesian coast around the Sunda Strait – between Java and Sumatra – was indirectly caused by volcanic eruptions from the Mount Anak Krakatau volcano, some 50 kilometres off the coast, experts concluded.
The disaster was caused by multiple phenomenon, Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) chief Dwikorita Karnawati told reporters, but it was “related to the volcanic eruptions. It was the indirect result of Mount Anak Krakatau eruptions.”
The volcano erupted at 9:03 pm (1403 GMT) on Saturday and the tsunami hit the beaches in Banten and Lampung 24 minutes later.
Karnawati said authorities had recorded a tremor from the volcano which was equal to a 3.4-magnitude earthquake. The tremor caused part of the crater to collapse, releasing material covering about 64 hectares of its slopes into the sea.
She added the BMKG was not able to detect the threat because its system can only identify potential tsunami caused by earthquakes, not those resulting from undersea landslides or volcanic eruptions.
The devastation caused by the tsunami was spread across five districts of both provinces, with Pandeglang district on the western coast of Java the worst hit. -DPA