Another 20,000 people have been evacuated from coastal areas along Indonesia’s Sunda Strait, officials said Friday, as the volcano that caused last week’s tsunami continued to rumble.
Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman of the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB), said 40,386 people had been pulled out of coastal communities of Banten and Lampung provinces, which were devastated when a huge chunk of the Anak Krakatau volcano collapsed into the sea on Dec. 22, spawning waves that surged inland and killed over 400 people.
He said the evacuation doubled Thursday’s figure of 20,000 after scientists had increased the volcano’s alert level to the second-highest and required residents to stay at least 5 km (3 miles) away from the crater.
“There is a danger of more eruptions,” Sutopo told reporters. “People [near the volcano] could be hit by hot rocks, pyroclastic flows and thick ash.”
Residents in coastal areas of the Sunda Strait have also been warned to stay at least a kilometer away from the shorelines.
Sutopo said the confirmed death toll from the tsunami was 426, revising previous reports of 430 fatalities. Authorities blamed the error on double-counting of bodies, but said figures could still climb in the next few days.
"The data is temporary,” Sutopo said. “It is estimated it will increase even though it may be small.”
The number of injured rose sharply from over 1,400 people to 7,202, he said, adding that at least 23 people were still missing.
Scientists said satellite images showed that a 64-hectare (158-acre) chunk of the crater of Anak Krakatau collapsed after an eruption on Dec. 22, sliding into the ocean to produce a deadly wave that swept beachfront homes and hotels in coastal areas.
‘We cannot force them’
Anak Krakatau began erupting in July, with continual small eruptions, but the volume of magma released and the crater size have increased since Dec. 22, a BNPB statement said.
“Since then it has erupted without pause. Sounds of eruptions are heard several times per minute,” it said.
The volcano sits in the middle of the Sunda Strait, about 25 to 30 miles (40 to 50 kilometers) from the Java and Sumatra coastlines.
About 2,300 people of the total 2,814 who live on Sebesi, the island nearest Anak Krakatau, have been evacuated to South Lampung in Sumatra, the BNPB spokesman said.
“Evacuation will be carried out until the activity of Anak Krakatau has decreased,” he said.
But local officials told BenarNews that about 500 residents had refused to board ships since authorities began evacuating people on Wednesday.
“Some of them want to stay, and we cannot force them,” said I Ketut Sukerta, chief of the South Lampung Disaster Management Agency.
It was the second time in three months that a tsunami has clobbered Indonesia, which frequently suffers earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
On Sept. 28, a tsunami spawned by a major quake slammed Sulawesi island, killing more than 2,000 people.
Among the ruins
Almost a week after the disaster, survivors began rebuilding their shattered lives.
“It is a test, we have to accept it,” said Muhidin, a 37-year-old resident of Sumur village in Pandeglang regency, on the western end of Java, one of the hardest-hit areas.
“What we can save, we will bring,” he told BenarNews as his wife tried to salvage items – clothes, kitchen utensils and several plastic chairs – from the debris-strewn ruins of their home on Friday.
“ID cards, the family card, and other important documents are missing,” he said.
Another resident, Supriyatna Ata, 41, was doing the same thing.
“I have to accept this test from God,” he told BenarNews.
“We have to rise up,” he said. “Maybe there is a silver lining behind all of this.”
Keisyah Aprilia in Pandeglang, Indonesia contributed to this report.