JAKARTA, Indonesia – Once more at Christmas, a tsunami has struck the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra.
The eruption of the Krakatau volcano is believed to have caused an underwater landslide which has triggered the tsunami.
The Anak Krakatau volcano eruption in the Labuan district in Pandeglang regency, Banten province and the resultant tsunami has caused massive damage to properties, an official death toll so far of 280, and injuries to 843 people. Another 28 people are missing.
The tsunami first hit the rim of the Sunda Strait late on Saturday night. A statement from Indonesia’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysical Agency (BMKG), said Krakatau erupted at just after 9:00pm and the tsunami struck at around 9:30pm Saturday.
“The Geological Agency detected at 21.03 local time the Anak Krakatau erupted,” the statement said, adding that the tsunami struck 24 minutes later.
“It’s possible the materials around Anak Krakatau collapsed to the sea and triggered the tsunami and affected beaches around Sunda Strait.”
“The tsunami hit several areas of the Sunda Strait, including beaches in Pandeglang regency, Serang, and South Lampung,” the BMKG statement said.
Traffic in the region is in chaos with many roads strewn with overturned cars and fallem trees.
According to Reuters, a huge outdoor concert was interrupted when the stage, on which a local rock group calleed Seventeen was performing, was swept away, killing one of the band members and the band’s manager.
A warning has gone out to local residents and tourists in coastal areas around the Sunda Strait to stay away from beaches, as a high-tide warning has been issued which will stay in place until Christmas Day.
“Please do not be around the beaches around the Sunda Strait. Those who have evacuated, please do not return yet,” said Rahmat Triyono, head of the meteorological agency said Sunday.
Authorities at first when Krakatau erupted gave assurances that there was no risk of a tsunami and advised people not to panic.
They later advised that the assessment of there being no risk was based on data that was wrong, and admitted a tsunami was indeed in the works.
The NOAA said there was no danger to the Pacific rim. “There is no tsunami danger for the U.S. coastlines from the Dec. 22nd Krakatoa volcano eruption,” the agency said in a statement.
For Indonesia, and for many other countries in Southeast Asia, Christmas brings back memories of the shock earthquake and tsunami that hit the region on Boxing Day in 2004, killing a quarter-of-a-million people spread over thirteen countries, of which more than 120,000 were in Indonesia.