A tsunami killed at least 222 people and injured hundreds on the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra following an underwater landslide believed caused by the erupting Anak Krakatau volcano, officials said on Sunday.
Hundreds of homes and other buildings were “heavily damaged” when the tsunami struck, almost without warning, along the rim of the Sunda Strait late on Saturday, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for the disaster mitigation agency, said.
Thousands of residents were forced to evacuate to higher ground. By late afternoon on Sunday, the disaster agency had raised the death toll to 222, with 843 injured and 28 missing.
This year the vast archipelago, which sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, has suffered its worst death toll from disasters in over a decade. Earthquakes flattened parts of the tourist island of Lombok in July and August, and a double quake-and-tsunami killed more than 2,000 people on Sulawesi island in September. As night fell, rescue efforts continued but workers and ambulances were struggling to reach affected areas because some roads were blocked by debris from damaged houses, overturned cars and fallen trees.TV images showed the seconds when the tsunami hit the beach and residential areas in Pandeglang on Java island, dragging with it victims, debris, and large chunks of wood and metal.
Coastal residents reported not seeing or feeling any warning signs, such as receding water or an earthquake, before waves of 2-3 metres (6-10 feet) washed ashore, according to media.
Authorities said a warning siren went off in some areas.
The timing of the tsunami, over the Christmas holiday season, evoked memories of the Indian Ocean tsunami triggered by an earthquake on December 26th in 2004, which killed 226,000 people in 13 countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia.
Aystein Lund Andersen, a Norwegian holidaymaker, was in Anyer town with his family when Saturday’s tsunami struck.
“I had to run, as the wave passed the beach and landed 15-20 metres inland. Next wave entered the hotel area where I was staying and downed cars on the road behind it,” he said on Facebook. “Managed to evacuate with my family to higher ground through forest paths and villages, where we are taken care of by the locals.”
President Michael D Higgins said he sent condolences to the families and communities of the people who died and were injured.
“On behalf of the people of Ireland, may I send my condolences to the people of Indonesia on the tragic loss of life that has occurred following the earthquake and tsunami that have struck Java and Sumatra,” he said.