TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - A tsunami following a volcanic eruption in Indonesia on Saturday (Dec. 22) has killed 222 people, with hundreds more injured, officials said on Sunday.
National disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said 843 people were injured and 28 were missing, as of 4pm local time.
“This number will continue to rise, considering not all places have been checked,” Dr Sutopo told a media briefing in Yogyakarta.
The tsunami was caused by “an undersea landslide resulting from volcanic activity on Anak Krakatau” and was exacerbated by an abnormally high tide because of the current full moon, he said.
“The tsunami hit several areas of the Sunda Strait, including beaches in Pandeglang regency, Serang, and South Lampung,” the agency said.
Video footage posted to social media by Dr Supoto showed panicked residents clutching flashlights and fleeing for higher ground.
The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) said the tsunami was detected at four locations in the provinces of Banten and Lampung at 9.27pm local time on Saturday.
TV images showed the seconds when the tsunami hit the beach and residential areas in Pandeglang on Java island, dragging with it victims, debris, and large chunks of wood and metal.
Coastal residents reported not seeing or feeling any warning signs, such as receding water or an earthquake, before waves of 2-3 metres washed ashore, according to media. Authorities said a warning siren went off in some areas.
BMKG chief Dwikorita Karnawati warned residents and tourists in coastal areas around the Sunda Strait to stay away from beaches until Tuesday (Dec. 25). Residents and hotels in those areas have also been told to refrain from holding beach activities.
TIDAL WAVE OR TSUNAMI
Mr Rahmat Triyono, the head of the BMKG's earthquake and tsunami department, said in a brief press conference that more tsunamis were possible “as long as there is increased activity of the Anak Krakatau volcano".
“If there is increased activity, then we have to raise the alert," he said, adding that the agency was awaiting an assessment from Indonesia’s Geological Agency.
Soon after the news of a tsunami broke, social media was flooded by debates over whether it was a tsunami or a tidal wave.
Dr Sutopo initially said in a tweet that has since been deleted that Banten was hit by a tidal wave due to a full moon and not a tsunami, since no earthquake had been detected. A tsunami is generally understood as a tidal wave caused by an earthquake. However, the statement was revised in a press conference later in the evening, when the agency confirmed that a tsunami had indeed occurred.
Mr Rahmat said the authorities were initially unsure whether the waves were caused by a tsunami. Saturday's tsunami was different from an earthquake-spawned tsunami, which is usually followed by aftershocks of a lower magnitude. Hence, the chances of a follow-up tsunami are low. “Saturday's tsunami was triggered by eruptions. Volcano eruptions can be small in the beginning and big later on," he said.
Mr Rudi Suhendar, the head of Indonesia's Geological Agency, however, said he still could not rule out that bad weather, rather than an eruption, had caused the tidal surge, as the volcano had been active since the end of June and the amplitude of Saturday's eruption was not the biggest.
Dr Sutopo told MetroTV there were no “significant” seismic tremors to indicate a tsunami was coming. He said various agencies were still studying to determine what triggered the tsunami.