A tsunami following a volcanic eruption killed 62 people and injured hundreds more as it slammed without warning into tourist beaches around Indonesia’s Sunda Strait Saturday night, sending panicked holidaymakers and residents fleeing.
Hundreds of buildings were destroyed by the wave, which hit the coast of southern Sumatra and the western tip of Java about 9.30 pm following the eruption of a volcano known as the “child” of the legendary Krakatoa, national disaster agency spokesperson Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.
Search and rescue teams were scouring rubble for survivors, with at least 584 people injured and 20 reported missing across three regions.
Dramatic video posted on social media showed a wall of water suddenly crashing into an open-air concert by pop group “Seventeen” hurling band members off the stage and then flooding into the audience.
In a tearful Instagram post, frontman Riefian Fajarsyah said the band’s bassist and road manager had been killed.
Images of the aftermath of the tsunami in coastal areas show a trail of uprooted trees and debris strewn across beaches. A tangled mess of corrugated steel roofing, timber and rubble was dragged inland at Carita beach, a popular day-tripping spot on the west coast of Java.
Muhammad Bintang, who was at Carita beach when the wave hit, described a sudden surge of water that plunged the tourist spot into darkness.
“We arrived at 9pm for our holiday and suddenly the water came it went dark, the electricity is off,” the 15-year-old told AFP.
“It’s messy outside and we still cannot access the road.”
In Lampung province, on the other side of the strait, Lutfi Al Rasyid said he fled the beach in Kalianda city in fear for his life.
“I could not start my motorbike so I left it and I ran I just prayed and ran as far as I could,” the 23-year-old told AFP.
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.
“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 death 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.
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.