Tsunami kills hundreds in Indonesia

A tsunami killed at least 222 people and injured hundreds on the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra following an underwater landslide believed caused by the erupting Anak Krakatau volcano, officials said on Sunday. Hundreds of homes and other buildings were “heavily damaged” when the tsunami struck, almost without warning, along the rim of the Sunda Strait late on Saturday, spokesman for the disaster mitigation agency, said.

Thousands of residents were forced to evacuate to higher ground. By 1040 GMT, the disaster agency had raised the death toll to 222 from 168, with 843 injured and 28 missing. 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 meters washed ashore, according to media.

Authorities said a warning siren went off in some areas.

The timing of the tsunami, over the Christmas holiday season, evoked memories of the Indian Ocean tsunami triggered by an earthquake on 26 December in 2004, which killed 226,000 people in 13 countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia.

Authorities warned residents and tourists in coastal areas around the Sunda Strait to stay away from beaches and a high-tide warning remained in place through until 25 December.

President Joko Widodo, who is running for re-election in April, said on Twitter that he had “ordered all relevant government agencies to immediately take emergency response steps, find victims and care for the injured”.

Saturday’s tsunami was the latest in a series of tragedies that have struck Indonesia, a vast archipelago, this year. Successive earthquakes flattened parts of the tourist island of Lombok, and a double quake-and-tsunami killed thousands on Sulawesi island. Nearly 200 people died when a Lion Air passenger plane crashed into the Java Sea in October.

The western coast of Banten province in Java was the worst-hit area, Nugroho told reporters in Yogyakarta. He said at least 35 people were reported dead in Lampung in southern Sumatra. The waves washed away an outdoor stage where a local rock band was performing in Tanjung Lesung in Banten province, a popular tourist getaway not far from the capital, Jakarta, killing at least one musician. Others were missing.

Officials were trying to determine the exact cause of the disaster.

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