Indonesia Tsunami Update: Death Toll Rises to 222, At Least 28 Missing

A tsunami believed to be triggered by a volcanic eruption killed at least 222 people in Indonesia during a busy holiday weekend, sweeping away hotels, hundreds of houses and a group of people attending a beach concert.

More than 800 people were reported injured after the tsunami hit around the Sunda Strait at 9:27 p.m. on Dec. 22, the Disaster Management Agency. At least 28 others were missing, but the toll could continue to rise because some areas had not yet been reached.

The tsunami sent a wall of water crashing ashore and swept away people attending a beach concert, along with hundreds of houses, including hotels.

The disaster may have been caused by undersea landslides from the eruption of Anak Krakatau, a volcanic island formed over years from the nearby Krakatau volcano, scientists from Indonesia’s Meteorology and Geophysics Agency said.

The scientists also cited tidal waves caused by the full moon as possible factors.

Wave Hits Concertgoers

Footage posted on social media showed a pop band named “Seventeen” performing for employees from a local electric company under a tent on a beach as dozens of people sat listening at tables covered in white cloths. As bright strobe lights flashed on stage, a child could be seen wandering through the crowd. Then, as the second song was about to begin with the drummer pounding, the stage suddenly heaved forward, throwing the band and all their equipment into the audience.

The band released a statement saying their bass player and road manager were found dead, while three other band members and the wife of one of the performers remained missing.

“The tide rose to the surface and dragged all the people on site,” it said. “Unfortunately, when the current receded our members are unable to save themselves while some did not find a place to hold on.”

‘I Had to Run’

Tourists were also affected during the long holiday weekend ahead of Christmas. Australia and New Zealand said they have no information their citizens were among the victims but were continuing to check.

“I had to run, as the wave passed the beach and landed 15-20m inland,” Norwegian Øystein Lund Andersen wrote on Facebook. The self-described photographer and volcano-enthusiast said he was taking pictures of the volcano when he suddenly saw a big wave come toward him.

“Next wave entered the hotel area where I was staying and downed cars on the road behind it. Managed to evacuate with my family to higher ground trough forest paths and villages, where we are taken care of by the locals. Were unharmed, thankfully.”

Casualty Numbers May Rise

The worst affected area was the Pandeglang region of Banten province in Java, which encompasses the Ujung Kulon National Park and popular beaches, the disaster agency said.

Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said 222 deaths had been confirmed and at least 843 people were injured. Rescue workers were still trying to access other affected areas.

In the city of Bandar Lampung on southern Sumatra, hundreds of residents took refuge at the governor’s office.

Alif, a resident in Pandeglang district who goes by one name, said told MetroTV station that many people were still searching for missing relatives.

Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo expressed his sympathy and ordered government agencies to respond quickly to the disaster.

“My deep condolences to the victims in Banten and Lumpung provinces,” he said. “Hopefully, those who are left have patience.”

Krakatau Eruption

The Anak Krakatau volcano in the Sunda Strait that links the Indian Ocean and Java Sea erupted about 24 minutes before the tsunami, the geophysics agency said.

The 1,000-foot-high volcano, about 124 miles southwest of capital Jakarta, has been erupting since June. In July, authorities widened its no-go areas to 1.2 miles from the crater.

Gegar Prasetya, co-founder of the Tsunami Research Center Indonesia, said the waves were likely caused by a flank collapse — when a big section of a volcano’s slope gives way. He said it’s possible for an eruption to trigger a landslide above ground or beneath the ocean, both capable of producing a tsunami.

“Actually, the tsunami was not really big, only one meter,” said Prasetya, who has closely studied Krakatau. “The problem is people always tend to build everything close to the shoreline.”

Physical losses included 430 heavily damaged homes, nine heavily damaged hotels and 10 heavily damaged vessels. Footage posted by the head of the disaster agency showed the aftermath of flooded streets and an overturned car.

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.

Saturday’s tsunami triggered memories for some of the massive 9.1-magnitude earthquake that hit on Dec. 26, 2004. It spawned a giant tsunami off Sumatra island in western Indonesia, killing more than 230,000 people in a dozen countries — the majority in Indonesia. The 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.

By Ali Kotarumalos and Margie Mason