More than 60 people feared dead and hundreds wounded when a tsunami swept through the Indonesian Strait of the ‘Sunda’ on Saturday night following a volcanic eruption, creating panic among tourists and locals alike.
Hundreds of buildings were razed by the wave, which swept through the southern shores of Sumatra and the western end of Java Island around 9:30 pm (1430 GMT). The wave erupted after the eruption of the volcano known as “the child” of the legendary Krakatoa, according to Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for the National Disaster Management Agency.
Sixty-two people were dead and 584 were wounded, according to a new report released by the spokesman. Twenty others are missing, he said.
The wave has dragged on the Carita beach, a popular tourist site on the west coast of Java, a pile of rubbish, between scrap roof plates and pieces of wood.
According to the authorities, the tsunami was triggered by an abnormal rising tide due to the new moon, combined with an underwater landslide caused by the eruption of ‘The Child’, a small island in the Sunda Strait that separates Java and Sumatra.
“The combination (of both factors) caused a sudden tsunami that hit the coast,” Nugroho said, adding that the Indonesian geological agency was conducting an investigation to find out exactly what happened.
The human toll is likely to get even heavier, he warned.
Videos posted on the social networks by the spokesperson show panicked inhabitants armed with The Indonesian authorities had initially declared that the wave was not a tsunami but a rising tide, and called on the population not to panic.
Although relatively rare, submarine volcanic eruptions can cause tsunamis, according to the Tsunami International Information Center.
According to the Indonesian Center for Volcanology and Geological Risk Management, ‘The Child’ has been showing signs of increased activity over the past week. An eruption occurred shortly before 4:00 pm lasted about 13 minutes, sending hundreds of meters into the sky a thick plume of ashes.
The Anak (“child” in Indonesian) is a small volcanic island that emerged from the waters half a century after the deadly Krakatoa eruption of 1883. It is one of 127 active volcanoes in Indonesia.
When the Krakatoa erupted in the 19th century, a huge column of smoke, stones and ashes rose in the sky 20 km high, plunging the region into darkness and triggering a powerful tsunami. About 36,000 people were killed.
Indonesia, an archipelago of 17,000 islands and islets that was formed by the convergence of three large tectonic plates (Indo-Pacific, Australian, Eurasian), is located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area of high seismic activity.
On September 28, an earthquake of magnitude 7.5 and the subsequent tidal wave devastated the city of Palu, on the west coast of Celebes, and its surroundings, killing at least 2,073 people. But another 5,000 people are still missing, most buried under the rubble of destroyed buildings.
In 2004, a tsunami caused by a 9.3 earthquake off Sumatra killed 220,000 people on the shores of the Indian Ocean, including 168,000 in Indonesia.