Following a deadly tsunami in Indonesia that struck coastal towns on the Sunda Strait on Saturday, 22 December 2018, the South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) has urged South Africans with family members in Indonesia whom they cannot contact or locate, to contact the department’s 24-hour switchboard number at 012 351 1000. The tsunami killed at least 281 people and injured hundreds on the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra… following an underwater landslide believed to have been caused by the erupting Anak Krakatau volcano, officials said.
A large chunk of a flank of the volcanic Anak Krakatau island slipped into the ocean and triggered the tsunami. The crater collapse, together with a high tide set off the waves that smashed into the coastal areas.
Many buildings were also heavily damaged – from small shops and houses to villas and hotels – when the tsunami struck, almost without warning, along the rim of the Sunda Strait, between Java and Sumatra islands, late on Saturday.
The time between the landslide and waves hitting the coast was just 24 minutes.
Anak Krakatau had been spewing ash and lava for months before a 0.64 square km section of the southwest side of the volcano collapsed, an Indonesian official said.
“This caused an underwater landslide and eventually caused the tsunami,” said Dwikorita Karnawati, head of the meteorological agency.
The South African Embassy in Jakarta is in contact with authorities and no South African casualties have been reported.
The department has sent its condolences to the government and people of Indonesia.
“The thoughts of the people of South Africa are with the people of Indonesia during this difficult period and the South African Government extends its sympathy to those families who have lost their loved ones,” said department spokesperson Ndivhuwo Mabaya.
Indonesia searches for survivors after volcano triggers deadly tsunami
Indonesian military and rescue teams fanned out across a stretch of coastline on Monday, hoping to find survivors of the tsunami.
Authorities called for vigilance amid the spewing of ash by Anak Krakatau.
Rescuers using heavy machinery and their bare hands searched through debris, pulling out bodies in the worst-affected areas on the west coast of Java island, where hundreds of soldiers and volunteers looked for victims along a 100 km stretch of shore.
More than 1,000 people were injured and about 12,000 residents had to move to higher ground, with a high-tide warning extended to Wednesday.
The vast archipelago, which sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, has suffered its worst annual death toll from disasters in more than a decade.
Earthquakes flattened parts of the island of Lombok in July and August, and a double quake-and-tsunami killed more than 2,000 people on a remote part of Sulawesi island in September.
President Joko Widodo visited the affected area on Monday and praised the authorities for swift action in responding to the latest disaster.
“The speed and accuracy in the field is to be appreciated,” he said.
Dented vehicles were crushed together by a wave that carried chunks of metal, felled trees and left roof tiles, wooden beams and household items strewn across roads. Some cars ended up in rice fields.
Nurjana, 20, dashed to the mountains after the tsunami hit. Her beachside snack stall was washed away.
“I opened the door straight away and saved myself. I jumped over the wall,” she told Reuters.
“Everything is destroyed.”
Aerial video footage of the Sunda Strait between the islands of Java and Sumatra showed Anak Krakatau (Child of Krakatau) still erupting on Sunday night, with sustained bursts of white smoke and ash filling the sky.
The meteorology agency estimated the collapsed area of the volcanic island, once known as Krakatoa, was about 64 hectares, or the size of 90 soccer pitches.
Krakatau erupted in 1883 killing more than 36,000 people in a series of tsunami. Anak Krakatau is the island that emerged from the area in 1927 and has been growing ever since.
The high waves isolated hundreds of people on Sebesi island, about 12 km from the volcano.
“We are completely paralysed,” Syamsiar, a village secretary on the island, told Metro TV, calling for food and medicine.
Widodo, who is running for re-election in April, told disaster agencies to install early warning systems, but experts said that unlike with tsunami caused by earthquakes, little could have been done to alert people that waves were coming.
“Tsunamis from volcanic flank collapse are generated right at the coast and often close to populations,” said Eddie Dempsey, lecturer in structural geology at Britain’s University of Hull.
“The interval between the volcanic collapse and the arrival of the waves is minimal.”
The timing of the disaster over the Christmas season evoked memories of the Indian Ocean tsunami triggered by an earthquake on Dec. 26, 2004, which killed 226,000 people in 14 countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia.
Families streamed out of the area on Monday for fear of further tsunami, jamming roads already blocked by debris.
Fishermen told how a light breeze was followed by a huge wave that smashed together wooden fishing boats moored off the coast and pulled down the trees they were tied to.
Excavators were being used to move debris and wreckage, including piles of steel roofing tangled like spaghetti. Medics were sent in with the military, while groups of police and soldiers reached remote areas.
A team of volunteers who worked on disasters in Lombok and Palu pulled bodies out of damaged beachside retreats.
“This year has been pretty busy. The disasters have been more severe,” said Muhammad Idris, who led the team.
Television footage showed how the tsunami washed away an outdoor stage where Indonesian rock band Seventeen was performing for about 200 guests at a party for utility company Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN).
Forty-one PLN employees and their relatives died. At least four band members and support crew were killed, lead singer Riefian “Ifan” Fajarsyah told followers in a tearful Instagram account.
Cici Paramita, 27, remembers hearing volcanic eruptions on Saturday afternoon, as she in front of her house about 50 metres back from the beach but said they were “not unusual”.
But then she heard an “extraordinary” rumbling.
She dashed inside to save her year-old baby and later found her other child, 8, alive among the wreckage outside.
“I was afraid for my life,” she said.
(Additional reporting by Johan Purnomo and Adi Kurniawan in PANDEGLANG and Fanny Potkin, Tabita Diela and Wilda Asmarni in JAKARTA; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor and Martin Petty; Editing by Paul Tait/Reuters and Jenni Baxter/SAPeople)