Death toll rises to 222 after volcano-caused tsunami in Indonesia

Residents inspect a house damaged by a tsunami, in Carita, Indonesia, Dec. 23, 2018 (AP Photo)

Residents inspect a house damaged by a tsunami, in Carita, Indonesia, Dec. 23, 2018 (AP Photo)

Over 800 injured and 28 reported missing; Anak Krakatoa volcano had spewed plumes of ash thousands of feet into the air for days

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AFP) —  The death toll from a volcano-triggered tsunami in Indonesia has risen to 222, with more than 800 people injured, officials said Sunday.

“222 people are dead, 843 people are injured and 28 people are missing,” Indonesia’s national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.

“This number is predicted to increase because not all victims have been successfully evacuated, not all health centers have reported victims and not all locations have got complete data.”

Hundreds of buildings were destroyed by the wave, which hit the coast of southern Sumatra and the western tip of Java about 9:30 p.m. local time (2:30 p.m. GMT) following the eruption of a volcano known as the “child” of the legendary Krakatoa, national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.

Search and rescue teams were scouring rubble for survivors.

Images broadcast on television showed the wave pushed a tangled mess of corrugated steel roofing, timber, rubble and flotsam inland from the coast at Carita beach, a popular day-tripping spot on the west coast of Java.

Elsewhere it uprooted trees and left a trail of debris strewn across the ground.

Residents inspect a house damaged by a tsunami, in Carita, Indonesia, Dec. 23, 2018 (AP Photo)

Muhammad Bintang, who was at Carita beach when the wave hit, described a sudden surge of water that plunged the tourist spot into darkness.

“We arrived at 9 p.m. for our holiday and suddenly the water came — it went dark, the electricity is off,” the 15-year-old told AFP.

“It’s messy outside and we still cannot access the road.”

In Lampung province, on the other side of the strait, Lutfi Al Rasyid said he fled the beach in Kalianda city in fear for his life.

“I could not start my motorbike so I left it and I ran… I just prayed and ran as far as I could,” the 23-year-old told AFP.

Residents inspect the damage to their homes on Carita beach, Indonesia, on December 23, 2018, after the area was hit by a tsunami on December 22 triggered by an eruption of the Anak Krakatoa volcano, which killed dozens and injured hundreds more as it slammed without warning into tourist beaches and coastal areas around Sunda Strait, sending panicked holiday makers and residents fleeing. (Semi/AFP)

Initial error

Authorities say the tsunami may have been triggered by an abnormal tidal surge due to a new moon and an underwater landslide following the eruption of Anak Krakatoa, which forms a small island in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra.

“The combination caused a sudden tsunami that hit the coast,” Nugroho said, but added that Indonesia’s geological agency was working to ascertain exactly how it happened.

He added that the death toll would likely increase.

Video footage posted to social media by Nugroho showed panicked residents clutching flashlights and fleeing for higher ground.

Indonesian authorities initially claimed the wave was not a tsunami, but instead a tidal surge and urged the public not to panic.

Residents inspect the damage to their homes on Carita beach, Indonesia, on December 23, 2018, after the area was hit by a tsunami on December 22 triggered by an eruption of the Anak Krakatoa volcano, which killed dozens and injured hundreds more as it slammed without warning into tourist beaches and coastal areas around Sunda Strait, sending panicked holiday makers and residents fleeing. (Semi/AFP)

Nugroho later apologized for the mistake on Twitter, saying because there was no earthquake it had been difficult to ascertain the cause of the incident early on.

“If there is an initial error we’re sorry,” he wrote.

The wave swamped parts of the coast around the Sunda Strait, but was most damaging in Pandeglang district, on Java’s western tip, where at least 33 people died and 491 people were injured.

Three people died further north in Serang, while seven were killed in South Lampung, on Sumatra island.

Heavy equipment was being transported to badly-hit areas to help search for victims, Nugroho said, adding evacuation posts and public kitchens were being set up for evacuees.

Debris from damaged buildings is seen on a street on Carita beach, Indonesia, on December 23, 2018, after the area was hit by a tsunami on December 22 triggered by an eruption of the Anak Krakatoa volcano, which killed dozens and injured hundreds more as it slammed without warning into tourist beaches and coastal areas around Sunda Strait, sending panicked holiday makers and residents fleeing. (Ronald/AFP)

Abu Salim, a member of the Tagana disaster volunteer group, said he helped evacuate victims in Banten province.

“We evacuated the victims who died and were injured, we took them to health clinics … Most of them suffered from broken bones,” he said, adding he feared more were missing.

Although relatively rare, submarine volcanic eruptions can cause tsunamis due to the sudden displacement of water or slope failure, according to the International Tsunami Information Center.

Anak Krakatoa is a small volcanic island that emerged from the ocean half a century after Krakatoa’s deadly 1883 eruption which killed more than 36,000 people.

According to Indonesia’s geological agency, Anak Krakatoa had been showing signs of heightened activity for days, spewing plumes of ash thousands of meters into the air.

Residents walk past a house damaged by a tsunami, in Carita, Indonesia, Dec. 23, 2018 (AP Photo/Dian Triyuli Handoko)

The volcano erupted again just after 9 p.m. on Saturday, the agency said.

An eruption just before 4 p.m. on Saturday lasted around 13 minutes and sent plumes of ash soaring hundreds of meters into the sky.

Indonesia, one of the most disaster-prone nations on earth, straddles the so-called Pacific “Ring of Fire,” where tectonic plates collide and a large portion of the world’s volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur.

Most recently in the city of Palu on Sulawesi island a quake and tsunami killed thousands of people.

In 2004 a tsunami triggered by a magnitude 9.3 undersea earthquake off the coast of Sumatra in western Indonesia killed 220,000 people in countries around the Indian Ocean, including 168,000 in Indonesia.

Anak Krakatoa is one of 127 active volcanoes which run the length of the archipelago.

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