More than 200 people have died and 843 injured after a tsunami of up to ten feet high struck the Southeast Asian nation of Indonesia on Saturday night at the end of a year of multiple and devastating natural disasters.
The tsunami’s waves struck beaches along the Sunda Strait without warning at about 9.30pm local time on Saturday, collapsing homes and hotels, crushing vehicles and ships, toppling electricity poles and sweeping victims out to sea.
Tragically it hit several popular tourist destinations during peak holiday season, catching many holidaymakers off guard as no tsunami alarms had been triggered and there had been no earthquake to warn that a wave may be on the way.
The authorities have now warned that the coastline should be avoided over the next few days due to fears that it could happen again.
Officials say the tsunami, which occurred between the islands of Java and Sumatra, in the strait linking the Indian Ocean and Java Sea, may have been caused by undersea landslides after the Anak Krakatau volcano erupted 24 minutes earlier.
The catastrophe may have been worsened by an abnormal tidal surge due to a full moon, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the natural disaster agency spokesman said. Throughout the day Mr Nugroho posted images of coastal communities reduced to piles of wreckage by the power of the fast-moving water.
Aid agencies were quick to deploy to the area, located just a few hours drive from the Indonesian capital, Jakarta. The roads were challenging but passable, Aulia Arriani, a spokesperson for the Indonesian Red Cross told the Telegraph.
“We are still waiting for the casualty numbers but the last one we had was 222. I’m afraid the death toll will rise as we have information of some 30 or more people who are still missing and there is still a lot of debris and collapsed buildings in the disaster area,” she said.
“Our challenge is to find the missing and to evacuate the people who are still trapped. In the first phase of emergency response we will be evacuating people for the next two to three days.”
Ms Arriani added that local hospitals and clinics had been flooded with casualties and dead bodies. “People in the disaster are need food, drinking water, tarpaulins and medical help,” she said.
Many victims were caught unawares by the tsunami while they enjoyed a holiday weekend in one of the popular local beach resorts. The worst-affected area was the Pandeglang region of Java’s Banten province, which encompasses Ujung Kulon National Park.
Dramatic video posted on social media showed the terrifying moment a wall of water struck a beachfront concert being performed in a marquis by the Indonesian pop band “Seventeen” at the Tanjung Lesung resort on the western tip of Java.
Screams of shock can be heard from the audience as the stage suddenly lurches forward, hurling the band and its equipment onto dancing fans.
Several band members were confirmed dead on Sunday, and the wife of lead vocalist Riefian Fajarsyah, who should have been celebrating her 26th birthday was still missing, along with many others.
Among the tourists on the beach were employees of state utility company PLN and civil servants from the Youth and Sports Ministry.
“We saw hundreds of people who were watching a music event disappear under the wave,” Nono, a tourist from Bekasi, West Java, told the Antara news agency.
Nono said that he and his family were in a prayer room when he heard a loud rumble and people outside screaming for help.
As the family ran outside, they were also struck by the water, catapulting his son Alif, 10, several metres away. They told their tale of survival while being treated for cuts at a community health centre on Sunday.
Another tourist, Oystein Lund Anderson, from Norway, wrote on Facebook of how he and his wife and son had also had a narrow escape.
He described how he was taking photos of the volcano when the tsunami slammed into the shore. "I had to run, as the wave passed the beach and landed 15-20m inland," he wrote.
"Next wave entered the hotel area where I was staying and drowned cars on the road behind it. Managed to evacuate with my family to higher ground trough forest paths and villages, where we are taken care of by the locals. We’re unharmed, thankfully."
As local and government aid agencies rushed to the area to help with the search and rescue operation, bringing supplies of food and shelter, international organisations were also preparing to assist.
"An Oxfam assessment team is going out to the Strait today to gather more information about what has happened and what we can do,” said Oxfam Australia’s humanitarian manager, Meg Quartermaine
“Oxfam is planning assessments to help to understand the scale of the disaster and to determine what sort of response may be required, if requested.” However, bad weather – with rain forecast over the next few days - and the fear of further deadly water surges may hamper the aid efforts.
Indonesia, home to 260 million people, has had a particularly tough year even for a disaster-prone country. The vast archipelago of more than 17,000 islands lies along the “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin.
More than 100 people died when an earthquake flattened the tourist island of Lombok near Bali in August, and in September, more than 2,500 people were killed by an earthquake and tsunami that hit the city of Palu on the island of Sulawesi, east of Borneo.
The latest tragedy appears to have been sparked by the Anak Krakatau volcano, some 124 miles southwest of Jakarta, which has been erupting since June.
Known as the “Child of Krakatoa”, the volcanic island was formed after one of the largest, most devastating eruptions in recorded history, when Krakatoa blew in 1883, killing more than 30,000 people, plunging the region into darkness and causing a global temperature drop.