JAKARTA – The number of casualties from a tsunami that followed a series of volcanic eruptions on Indonesia’s Sunda Strait now stands at 430, with 159 still missing, Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency said on Wednesday.
Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho also said 1,495 people had been injured and 21,991 displaced by the disaster, which was preceded by eruptions from the Mount Anak Krakatau volcano.
Rescuers are still searching remote areas in the Sumur district on the westernmost tip of Java, with heavy machinery deployed to open access to the area after it was cut off by damaged roads and broken bridges, he added.
“Villagers living on Sebesi Island and Sebuku Island have been evacuated and there were two confirmed dead in Sebesi, while none on Sebuku died,” Nugroho said, referring to the two inhabited islands close to the volcano.
Hajawi, a resident of Sebesi Island who has been evacuated to the mainland in Kalianda, Lampung Selatan, told news broadcaster TV One that about 1,800 villagers from the island have been evacuated, after staying on the island’s higher ground for three days.
“When the first wave came, I told my wife and children to go to higher ground on the hill. I stayed behind and the second wave came. I was stuck inside my house because I couldn’t open the door. I heard people from the village were escaping to the hill,” Hajawi said.
The third wave was the one that was destructive, he added.
Yana has spent four nights in the woods on a higher ground in Lampung Selatan with her family and fellow villagers.
“My husband is a fisherman. His boat was totally damaged in the tsunami,” she told TV One.
A total of 312,78 kilometres of coastline in Lampung and Banten have been affected and the waters swept inland as far as 500 metres.
The worst-affected areas were three tourism spots in Pandeglang district – Tanjung Lesung, Carita and Panimbang, which was the worst hit in the tsunami.
“The areas were busy with vacationers during the long weekend,” Nugroho said.
Indonesia’s climate and geophysics agency (BMKG) has advised people to stay away from coastal areas on both sides of the strait.
The agency said late Tuesday that heavy rain throughout the day was possible in areas surrounding Mount Anak Krakatau on Wednesday.
“Therefore, we ask people to remain cautious and avoid the beaches or coastal areas within a 500-metre to 1-kilometre radius,” said agency head Dwikorita Karnawati.
The tsunami came without warning as Indonesia lacks the system to detect tsunamis triggered by undersea landslides and volcanic eruptions.
Scientists have concluded that the tsunami was triggered by an undersea landslide.
Karnawati said the agency has developed an application that can monitor the volcano’s seismic activity, so warnings can be issued sooner in future.
The tsunami struck coastal areas in Banten province on the western tip of Java and Lampung province on the southern tip of Sumatra just four days ahead of the 14th anniversary of Indian Ocean tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people in Aceh province on December 26, 2004. -DPA