Indonesia Tsunami: 373 people dead, more than 1400 injured

Arturo Kim
December 25, 2018

"When our sensors go off, we can give a warning within a maximum of five minutes".

The vast archipelago, which sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", has suffered its worst annual death toll from disasters in more than a decade.

"The US Department of State has no information on US citizens injured in a tsunami in Indonesia, State Department's deputy spokesman, Robert Palldino, said on Sunday".

The Tsunami Early Warning Signals that Indonesia had put in place is created to monitor earthquakes, but not undersea landslides and volcanic eruptions. It was later forced to issue a correction and an apology as it pointed to a lack of early warning systems in explaining the high death toll.

The country regularly experiences deadly earthquakes, including most recently in the city of Palu on Sulawesi island where a quake and tsunami killed thousands of people.

"Such triggers would not have been detected by Indonesia's tsunami early warning system because that is geared-up to detect earthquake-triggered tsunamis", said Richard Teeuw, a disaster risk reduction expert at the University of Portsmouth in England.

A hotel sign damaged lays shattered on the beach. Authorities warned that continued volcanic activity and unusually high tides linked to a full moon meant that a second tsunami remained a possibility. "Residents should not panic, but please refrain from conducting any activities near beaches".

"We have less medicine than usual.It's not healthy here for evacuees". Women and children stay in the building while the men patrol outside, he said.

Indonesian soldiers search the bodies of tsunami victims at a beach resort on the island of Java on Monday.

The Indonesian Medical Association of Banten region said it has sent doctors and medical supplies and equipment and that numerous injured were in need of orthopedic and neurosurgery surgery.

Sutopo said the Indonesian Navy had sent out ships to help in the search for bodies and survivors, and had discovered several bodies in the water and on small offshore islands of Java. Chunks of broken concrete and splintered wood littered the coast where hundreds of homes and hotels had stood. Vehicles were tossed into the rubble or were buried under collapsed roofs. The military said it has deployed troops to distribute aid and blankets, as well as sending in medics.

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Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, who is scheduled to visit the stricken area on Monday, expressed his sympathy and ordered government agencies to respond quickly to the disaster.

Ben van der Pluijm, an natural disaster geologist and a professor in the University of MI, said the tsunami may have been caused by a "partial collapse" of Anak Krakatau.

The waves washed ashore along western Java and southern Sumatra islands Saturday night following a volcanic eruption.

Instead, he said only about 100 people showed up for the Christmas Eve service, usually attended by double that number, because many people had left the area for the capital, Jakarta, or other areas away from the disaster zone.

"Anything that rapidly displaces water can cause a tsunami, whether or not it also shakes the ground", she said.

"We can't sleep at night, and if we get to sleep a vehicle goes past with sirens and we wake up again, on edge", said Enah, a 29-year-old woman who managed to survive with her family.

A band playing a concert near one of the affected beaches was swept away, killing three of the four members.

"I also met a couple who were grateful also that everyone survived even though the house is totally swept out", he said. Others are also missing, he said. "Unfortunately, when the current receded our members are unable to save themselves while some did not find a place to hold on".

Another reason behind the disaster could be a spewing of molten lava that come off the volcano after an eruption, experts said.

Saturday's tsunami also rekindled memories of the massive magnitude 9.1 quake that hit Indonesia on December 26, 2004.

Anak Krakatau is known for its 1883 eruption - one of the deadliest in recorded history - that killed more than 36,000 people.

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