ALGIERS – According to the latest report, at least 281 people were killed in the tsunami that struck Saturday the coast near the Sunda Strait, which separates the Indonesian islands from Java and Sumatra where there are also more than a thousand wounded and 57 missing.
Indonesia has not yet recovered from the tsunami that devastated the city of Palu, Celebes, on September 28, leaving 2,000 dead and more than 5,000 missing, and the eruption of Mount Angung to Bali in June, which made tourists flee.
Always engraved in memory, the shocking images of the disaster caused by the 2004 tsunami are still there. The country had been hit hard by the violent tsunami that ravaged its coasts, as well as Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean, which claimed 220,000 lives.
The nightmare of Saturday night
Saturday night, a deadly wave swept over the coast near Sunda Strait, killing more than 280 people in a country that has already experienced the worst. Indonesia, a country of 267 million people, is regularly struck by natural disasters.
The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent has estimated that "powerful waves" have reached between 30 and 90 centimeters in height.
The spokesman of the National Disaster Management Agency, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, predicts that the number of victims will continue to increase.
The wave hit the southern coasts of Sumatra and the western end of Java, shaving hundreds of buildings. It occurred after the eruption of the volcano known as the "child" of the legendary Krakatoa volcano, Anak Krakatoa.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo visited the devastated areas on Monday. He presented his condolences and mobilized relief, in this country, located on the "belt of fire of the Pacific", this strongly seismic zone, in full activity these last months.
This time, the drama is of a smaller proportion, but the proximity of the volcano to less than 50 km from the coast explains the rapid impact of the tsunami, able to travel several hundreds of kilometers per hour, taking the course of the authorities, in the dark.
Helpers in search of survivors
Despite warnings by experts against the risk of new waves of deadly volcanic activity, Indonesian rescuers were feverishly looking for survivors on Monday.
Rescue teams with excavators and other heavy equipment were trying to clear the debris while thousands of people were evacuated to the heights. Some rescuers worked with bare hands.
"The army and police comb the ruins to see if there are other victims," said one official. Relief operations are expected to last one week.
Indonesia, an archipelago of 17,000 islands and islets that was formed by the convergence of three large tectonic plates (Indo-Pacific, Australian, Eurasian), is on the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area of strong seismic activity and volcanic eruptions. It has 127 active volcanoes.
Tsunamis triggered by volcanic eruptions, which cause a displacement of water, are relatively rare. But experts believe Saturday's episode is due to the submarine collapse of part of the Anak Krakatoa, and warns that this phenomenon can now be reproduced as the volcano is destabilized.