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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 18 January 2019

Death toll rises in Indonesian 'volcano tsunami'

At least 222 people were killed and hundreds more were injured after tsunami hit beaches around Sunda Strait

A tsunami killed at least 222 people on the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra and injured hundreds more following an underwater landslide caused by a volcanic eruption, officials said on Sunday.

The wave destroyed hundreds of buildings and sent tourists and residents fleeing for their lives after it slammed into coastal areas around Indonesia's Sunda Strait late on Saturday.

Some 843 people were injured and hundreds of homes and other buildings were heavily damaged in the tsunami apparently triggered by a volcano known as the "child" of the legendary Krakatoa, national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said. At least 20 people are missing.

TV footage showed roads blocked by debris from damaged houses, overturned cars and fallen trees. The water washed away an outdoor stage where a local rock band was performing, killing at least one musician. Others were missing.

Authorities warned residents and tourists in coastal areas around the Sunda Strait to stay away from beaches and a high-tide warning remained in place through December 25.

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"Those who have evacuated, please do not return yet," said Rahmat Triyono, head of the meteorological agency.

At least 556 houses, 350 boats and nine hotels were damaged in the wave, the spokesperson for Indonesia's disaster agency said.

The tsunami took place nearly 14 years after an Indian Ocean tsunami triggered by an earthquake killed 226,000 people in 14 countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia.

More than 100 employees of the state utility company PLN had gathered in Tanjung Lesung for an end-of-year event, company spokesman I Made Suprateka told Reuters.

Dramatic TV footage showed the seconds when waves hit a concert at the event and washed away the stage where local rock band Seventeen was performing.

"The water washed away the stage which was located very close to the sea," the band said in a statement. "The water rose and dragged away everyone at the location. We have lost loved ones, including our bassist and manager ... and others are missing."

Warning: this video might contain footage some of our readers might find upsetting

The disaster mitigation agency said it was still compiling information on the disaster and there was a "possibility that data on the victims and damage will increase".

The tsunami was caused by "an undersea landslide resulting from volcanic activity on Anak Krakatau" and was exacerbated by an abnormally high tide because of the full moon, disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.

Footage tweeted by the spokesman shows buildings surrounded by debris and boats washed onto shore.

According to a statement from the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency, Krakatau erupted at just after 9pm and the tsunami struck at around 9.30pm on Saturday.

"The tsunami hit several areas of the Sunda Strait, including beaches in Pandeglang regency, Serang, and South Lampung," the agency said.

Nugroho told Metro TV that tsunamis triggered by volcanic eruptions were rare and that the Sunda Strait tsunami had not resulted from an earthquake.

"There was no earthquake, and the Anak Krakatau eruption also wasn't that big," Nugroho told Metro TV, noting there were no significant seismic tremors to indicate a tsunami was coming.

The eruption created a column of volcanic ash up to 500 metres high.

In September, more than 2,500 people were killed by a quake and tsunami that hit the city of Palu on the island of Sulawesi, which is just east of Borneo.

In December 2004, a massive magnitude 9.1 earthquake off Sumatra island in western Indonesia triggered a tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries. Indonesia is a vast archipelago of more than 17,000 islands home to 260 million people. Roads and infrastructure are poor in many areas, making access difficult in the best of conditions.

Updated: December 23, 2018 04:24 PM

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