Hundreds Dead in Indonesian Tsunami

Keisyah Aprilia
Pandeglang, Indonesia
181223_ID_Tsunami_1000.jpg An aerial photo shows damaged buildings in Carita, in Banten province on the western tip of Java, on Dec. 23, 2018, after the area was hit by a tsunami the night before.

Updated at 10:09 p.m. ET on 2018-12-23

Nearly 300 people died and dozens were missing in a tsunami apparently triggered by a volcano that hit coastal areas of Indonesia’s Sunda Strait, officials said Monday (local time).

All the dead accounted for thus far are Indonesian, including members of a band that was in the midst of performing at a beach resort when waves suddenly slammed the stage at 9:27 p.m. local time on Saturday.


“Current data on the impact of the tsunami in the Sunda Strait ... 281 people killed, 1,016 injured, 57 people missing and 11,687 displaced,” said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman of Indonesia's National Disaster Management Agency, giving figures reported by emergency personnel at 7:00 a.m. Monday local time.

The numbers were likely to rise as not all affected areas had reported information, he said. The disaster struck three months after a 7.4 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami hit Central Sulawesi province on Sept. 28, killing more than 2,000.

This time the tsunami, which was generated in waters between the islands of Sumatra and Java, is thought to have been caused by a volcanic eruption triggering an underwater landslide, which displaced water and produced the massive waves, officials said.

“This tsunami was not caused by an earthquake. No tectonic activity was detected. It is possible this tsunami occurred due to an underwater landslide resulting from the eruption of Anak Krakatau,” Sutopo said Saturday.


Anak Krakatau is a volcanic island in the Sunda Strait and a geological offshoot of Krakatau, whose catastrophic eruption over two days in August 1883 is believed to have killed tens of thousands of people in one of the worst eruptions in recorded history.

Anak Krakatau erupted 24 minutes prior to the tsunami on Saturday, authorities said. In August, authorities expanded the volcano’s exclusion zone from one kilometer to two after it showed increased activity.

“Most sincere condolences for the victims of the tsunami disaster in Pandeglang, Serang and South Lampung, last night. I have ordered all relevant government officials to immediately take emergency response steps, find victims, and care for the injured,” President Joko Widodo said in a tweet earlier Sunday

Members of the international community offered assistance in the wake of the latest disaster to strike Indonesia.

“I wish strength and courage to the emergency service currently at work after the devastating tsunami around the Sunda Strait in Indonesia. The EU Commission stands ready to assist ongoing rescue efforts,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said.

The United States was also ready to assist as needed, Robert Palladino, a deputy spokesman for the U.S. Department of State, said in a statement.

“The United States conveys our deepest condolences for the loss of life and destruction from the tsunami that struck West Java and southern Sumatra, Indonesia, on December 22.  We continue to monitor the situation closely and are in close communication with Indonesian authorities,” he said.

Volunteers evacuate a tsunami victim from Tanjung Lesung beach in Banten Province, on the western tip of Java, Dec. 23, 2018. [Keisyah Aprilia/BenarNews]
Volunteers evacuate a tsunami victim from Tanjung Lesung beach in Banten Province, on the western tip of Java, Dec. 23, 2018. [Keisyah Aprilia/BenarNews]
Keisyah Aprilia/BenarNews

‘After that, silence’

The band Seventeen was just starting its second song at Tanjung Lesung Beach Resort in Pandeglang when a wall of water burst through a curtain covering the back of the stage.

A party-goer attending the event was recording the concert and caught the horrific moment on a video that has since gone viral.

The bass player, road manager and guitarist were found dead by midday Sunday while their drummer was still missing, Yulia Dian, a spokeswoman for the band management, said in a statement.

Late Sunday, rescue personnel were working on identifying dozens of corpses in the lobby of the resort. Waves swamped almost every building of the facility, located only about 15 meters (50 feet) from the water’s edge.

After the water receded, two- and four-wheel vehicles lay smashed against the outer walls of guest cottages.

“The waves were three meters high [ten feet]. Several hit the resort,” said a man who gave his name as Asep. He said he was able to escape the tsunami by running to higher ground.

“I watched from a distance. The minute the waves hit, I ran. Everything was chaotic and the electricity immediately went out,” he said.

The loud music covered any noise the tsunami made as it rushed ashore, said Supriyana, another eyewitness.

“Suddenly it was there and no one knew there was a tsunami happening. It hit, people were screaming and running, calling for help. After that, silence,” she said.

Many coastal areas appeared deserted Sunday, as heavy rain lashed the area.

“Because of the tsunami, many people have fled. Most hotels and restaurants are closed,” said Rizky, a hotel clerk.

Indonesia is located in the tectonically active Ring of Fire – an area in the basin of the Pacific Ocean – and frequently suffers earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

On Dec. 26, 2004, about 130,000 people died in the nation’s westernmost province of Aceh when a magnitude 9.1 earthquake struck off the west coast of Sumatra, spawning a series of devastating tsunamis.

Experts said another tsunami could strike the Sunda Strait due to ongoing volcanic activity.

"The likelihood of further tsunamis in the Sunda Strait will remain high while Anak Krakatoa volcano is going through its current active phase because that might trigger further submarine landslides," Richard Teeuw, a professor at University of Portsmouth in England, told AFP.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.