Indonesia tsunami: 43 killed, nearly 600 injured; wave triggered by volcanic eruption hit coasts without warning

Authorities say the tsunami in Indonesia 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.

Agence France-Presse December 23, 2018 08:13:20 IST
Indonesia tsunami: 43 killed, nearly 600 injured; wave triggered by volcanic eruption hit coasts without warning

Jakarta: At least 43 people have been killed and nearly 600 injured in a tsunami in Indonesia, officials said Sunday. "In the Sunda Strait, 40 people have died, 584 people were injured and two people are missing," national disaster agency spokesperson Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said in a statement. Another three people were killed in nearby Serang, he added.

The tsunami in Indonesia may have been caused by a volcano known as the "child" of the legendary Krakatoa, officials said early Sunday. Dozens of buildings were destroyed by the wave, which hit beaches without warning in South Sumatra and the western tip of Java about 9.30 pm local time on Saturday, Nugroho had said.

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.

Indonesia tsunami 43 killed nearly 600 injured wave triggered by volcanic eruption hit coasts without warning

Residents sit inside a mosque as they evacuated following high waves and the eruption of Anak Krakatau volcano at Labuan district in Indonesia. Reuters

"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 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.

Nugroho later apologised 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.

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 Centre.

Anak Krakatoa is a small volcanic island that emerged from the ocean half a century after Krakatoa's deadly 1883 eruption. When Krakatoa erupted in the 19th Century, a jet of ash, stones and smoke shot more than 20 kilometres into the sky, plunging the region into darkness, and sparking a huge tsunami that was felt around the world.  The disaster had killed more than 36,000 people.

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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