Indonesia tsunami: People told ‘stay away from sea’ as fears grow of more horror
“EXTREME weather and high waves” around the erupting Anak Krakatau volcano within the notorious Pacific Ring of Fire have prompted Indonesian authorities to urge people to stay away from the coast already devastated by the tsunami which has killed more than 400 people – with experts warning of fresh chaos in the days ahead.
And rescue teams desperately trying to reach the western coast of Java are being hampered by driving rains which are making it difficult to access remote areas. Clouds of ash spewed from Anak Krakatau, almost obscuring the volcanic island where a crater collapse at high tide on Saturday sent waves of up to 16 feet smashing into the coast on the Sunda Strait, between Java and Sumatra islands. The tsunami followed the collapse of an area of the volcano island of the size of about 64 hectares (222 acres), or about 90 soccer pitches.
Indonesia’s meteorology agency (BMKG) said late on Tuesday the rough weather around the volcano could make its crater more fragile.
BMKG head Dwikorita Karnawati, who said a two-kilometre exclusion zone was currently in force, added: “We have developed a monitoring system focused specifically on the volcanic tremors at Anak Krakatau so that we can issue early warnings.”
A state of emergency has been declared until January 4, which authorities hope will make it easier to deploy assistance, said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for the national disaster mitigation agency.
Search and rescue teams were focused on the town of Sumur near the southwest tip of Java, but “the roads are damaged and clogged” and helicopters had to be deployed to carry out assessments and evacuations, with several villages still inaccessible by road, Mr Nugroho added.
Volunteers were having to piece together makeshift bridges out of concrete blocks after the waves washed away infrastructure along the coast.
The confirmed death toll is 430, with at least 159 people missing, as well as more than 1,500 people injured, plus 21,000 displaced from their homes, having been forced to moved to higher ground.
The vast archipelago, which sits in the Ring of Fire, which runs around the Pacific basin, has suffered its worst annual death toll from disasters in more than a decade.
The latest disaster, coming during the Christmas season, evoked memories of the Indian Ocean tsunami triggered by an earthquake on December 26, 2004, which killed 226,000 people in 14 countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia itself.
The waves generated engulfed fishing villages and holiday beach parties at resorts, leaving a coast littered with crushed vehicles, felled trees.
Chunks of metal, wooden beams and household items have been strewn across roads and rice fields.
The surge of seawater also left dozens of turtles, weighing several kilograms, stranded on land, and some volunteer rescuers worked to carry them back to the sea.
On Sebesi Island in the middle of the Sunda Strait, helicopters had been dispatched to evacuate residents.
long the coast, thousands of people are staying in tents and temporary shelters like mosques or schools, with dozens sleeping on the floor or in crowded public facilities.
Rice and instant noodles have been delivered to many shelters, but clean water, wet weather gear, fresh clothes, and blankets are in short supply, some evacuees said.
In 1883, the volcano then known as Krakatoa erupted in one of the biggest blasts in recorded history, killing more than 36,000 people in a series of tsunami, and lowering the global surface temperature by one degree Celsius with its ash.
Anak Krakatau (which mean child of Krakatau) is the island which emerged from the area in 1927, and has been growing ever since.
Ayub, a 20-year old fisherman sleeping with his family in a tent provided by the military, said conditions were not ideal due to the rain, but that they had enough to eat.
He said: ”Everything is destroyed…my boat, motorcycle, house – all of it. “The most important thing is we’re alive.”
Ade Hasanah, 45, staying in an emergency centre with her children, said people were being told not to return to their homes.
She said: “It’s safe here. We hope if the children are safe and the situation is stable, we can go home quickly. We’re restless.”