Death toll from Indonesia tsunami rises to 281: officials

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An aerial photo shows damaged buildings in Carita on December 23, 2018, after the area was hit by a tsunami on December 22 following an eruption of the Anak Krakatoa volcano. (AFP)
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A motorist passes a car damaged by a tsunami, in Tanjung Lesung, Indonesia, Monday, Dec. 24, 2018. (AP)
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Debris seen after a tsunami hit at Rajabasa district in South Lampung, Indonesia, December 23, 2018 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. (Reuters)
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A resident inspects a his house damaged by a tsunami, near Sumur village, Indonesia, Monday, Dec. 24, 2018. (AP)
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Debris from damaged buildings is seen on a street on Carita beach on December 23, 2018, after the area was hit by a tsunami on December 22 that was triggered by an eruption of the Anak Krakatoa volcano. (AFP)
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Indonesian villagers remove water from a hole where the remains of the 2004 tsunami and earthquake victims were discovered in Kajhu, Aceh province on December 19, 2018. (AFP)
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A woman cries as she reads a list of victims who were killed in a tsunami, at Carita in Padeglang, Banten province, Indonesia, December 23, 2018 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. (Reuters)
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Quake survivors make their way past a washed out passenger ferry in Wani, Indonesia's Central Sulawesi on October 3, 2018, after an earthquake and tsunami hit the area on September 28. (AFP)
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This aerial photo shows Indonesian soldiers burying quake victims in a mass grave in Poboya in Indonesia's Central Sulawesi on October 2, 2018, after an earthquake and tsunami hit the area on September 28. (AFP)
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Indonesian villagers carry the remains of the 2004 tsunami and earthquake victims discovered in Kajhu, Aceh province on December 19, 2018. (AFP)
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Residents evacuate from damaged homes on Carita beach on December 23, 2018, after the area was hit by a tsunami on December 22 that may have been caused by the Anak Krakatoa volcano. (AFP)
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People look for salvageable items from a damaged home on Carita beach on December 23, 2018, after the area was hit by a tsunami that may have been caused by the Anak Krakatoa volcano. (AFP)
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Debris from damaged buildings is seen on a street on Carita beach on December 23, 2018, after the area was hit by a tsunami on December 22 that was triggered by an eruption of the Anak Krakatoa volcano. (AFP)
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Rescuers retrieve the body of a tsunami victim near Sumur village, Indonesia, Monday, Dec. 24, 2018. (AP)
Updated 24 December 2018
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Death toll from Indonesia tsunami rises to 281: officials

  • More than a thousand injured and hundreds of buildings damaged by huge wave thought to be triggered by volcanic eruption
  • Officials in Indonesia apologize for response to tsunami

JAKARTA: The tsunami that struck the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra late on Saturday has so far claimed 281 lives, injured more than 1,000 people and damaged hundreds of buildings. It was thought to have been caused by undersea landslides following the Mount Anak Krakatau volcanic eruption in Sunda Strait, between the two islands.

Indonesian social media was abuzz with criticism toward the country’s official response for downplaying initial reports of a tsunami. 

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) tweeted on Saturday night that the waves which hit coastal areas on both sides of the strait were high tidal waves caused by the full moon. It advised people to stay calm and ended its tweet with a sunglasses emoji. 

It revised the tweet shortly afterwards and announced that the agency had not recorded any seismic activities that could have triggered a tsunami. It also acknowledged that the emoji on its previous tweet was inappropriate.

The spokesman for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, who has become a reliable source for the series of disasters that have hit Indonesia, announced shortly after midnight on Sunday that tidal waves had swamped beaches in Lampung province on the southern tip of Sumatra and in Banten on the western coast of Java. 

BMKG head Dwikorita Karnawati said in an early morning, televised press conference said the agency’s tide gauges detected a rise on the sea level but could not immediately determine whether it was a tsunami and needed more time to analyze it.

“Further analysis showed that the wave was indeed a tsunami. The pattern of the waves were similar to that in Palu,” Karnawati said, referring to the tsunami triggered by undersea landslide that followed a 7.5 magnitude earthquake and hit Palu and its neighboring districts on Sept 28. The BMKG was also under fire for lifting its tsunami early warning too early following the Palu earthquake.  

BNPB’s Nugroho has since apologized for the error in his earlier announcement which stated that the wave was only tidal surge waves instead of a tsunami, saying that BNPB based its announcement on the BMKG’s analysis. 

“The BMKG and the Geology Agency are still examining the undersea landslides,” Nugroho said in a press conference from Yogyakarta on Sunday afternoon. “It was difficult to provide early warning for tsunami caused by undersea landslides,” he added. 

No tsunami warning was issued as the result of the confusion on the agencies’ initial assessment. The BMKG said that, based on the geology agency’s record, the eruption occurred at 9.03pm on Saturday, and the tsunami hit coastal areas in Lampung and Banten at 9.27pm. The authorities have not provided information on the height of the waves.

The worst hit area was the Pandeglang district of Banten, where popular beach resorts were packed with holiday-goers spending the Christmas and New Year holiday season. The western Java transmission unit of the state electricity company, PLN, was having a staff and family outing at one resort and had hired a band called Seventeen. Video footage showed the wave crashing over the stage as the band performed. The band said it had lost its bassist, guitarist and road manager, and that other members, including the wife of the singer, were still unaccounted for. 

Nugroho said 164 people were killed in the district, with 446 houses, nine hotels, 350 vessels and boats and 73 vehicles badly damaged. 

“This is a lesson for us because we don’t have early warning system for tsunami triggered by undersea landslides or volcanic activities,” Nugroho said. 

The Mount Anak Krakatau volcano is a new volcano that began to form in 1927 in the caldera of Krakatau, decades after that volcano's major eruption in 1883 that triggered a mega tsunami and killed about 36,000 people in the then Dutch Indies. The sound of its eruption was heard as far as the western part of Australia and its volcanic ash drifted as far as Europe. 

The volcano, which is one of the 127 active volcanoes that dot the Indonesian archipelago, has continued to form and its activity has increased its height by 4 to 6 meters every year, Nugroho said.


Unspeakable grief: A husband, wife and three children wiped out in Sri Lanka

Updated 40 min 46 sec ago
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Unspeakable grief: A husband, wife and three children wiped out in Sri Lanka

  • The Gomez family gather for funeral of a husband and wife and their three sons
  • They were brutally killed as they attended Easter Sunday Mass at Colombo’s St. Joseph’s Shrine

COLOMBO: The dark wooden coffins, sitting side by side, attested to one family’s unspeakable grief.
The Gomez family gathered Tuesday to say a final farewell to five loved ones — a son, a daughter-in-law and three young grandsons — brutally killed as they attended Easter Sunday Mass at Colombo’s St. Joseph’s Shrine.
“All family, all generation, is lost,” said Joseph Gomez, the family patriarch, as tears welled in his eyes. Dozens of family members and neighbors were gathered in his simple home, where the sound of hymns sung by mourners gently wafted in the background and candles flickered beside three coffins. The bodies of two grandsons have yet to be recovered.
Across Sri Lanka, Tuesday was a national day of mourning as families began to lay to rest the more than 320 victims of the bomb blasts that struck a half-dozen churches and hotels in the island nation.
For the Gomez family, the loss was unfathomable: A 33-year-old son, Berlington Joseph, the young man’s 31-year-old wife Chandrika Arumugam, and their three boys, 9-year-old Bevon, 6-year-old Clavon and baby Avon, who would have turned 1 next week. A funeral card with a photo of the family clutched in his hands, the elder Gomez wailed: “I can’t bear this on me, I can’t bear this.”
“My eldest son, my eldest son,” he sobbed as he laid bouquets of red roses and brightly colored daisies on the largest coffin. Next to it was a tiny coffin, a photo of little Avon tucked into a wooden frame nearby.
The coffins, draped with long white tassels, were then carried to a Colombo cemetery and lowered into side-by-side graves.
At St. Joseph’s Shrine, dozens of mourners gathered outside, lighting candles and praying in unison for the victims of Sunday’s blasts as heavily armed soldiers stood guard.
At St. Sebastian Church in Negombo, a funeral service was held Tuesday for victims killed there as they worshipped, led by Cardinal Malcom Ranjith. The church was heavily guarded by hundreds of army, air force and police troops, and soldiers were deployed every 15 feet along the streets of the city some 20 miles north of Colombo.
Throughout the country, people observed a three-minute silence for the victims of the near-simultaneous attacks at three churches and three luxury hotels, and three other related blasts, the deadliest violence to strike Sri Lanka in a decade.
The Sri Lankan government has blamed the attack on National Towheed Jamaar, a little-known local extremist group, and on Tuesday, the Daesh group also claimed responsibility, though it provided no proof it was involved and has made unsubstantiated claims in the past.