After a wave [no pun intended] of devastating tsunamis during the summer and the fall, 2018 was already on track to be one of the deadliest years for tsunami-prone Indonesia since 2004 – when a massive tsunami struck the region, killing nearly 250,000 people, most of them in Indonesia.
But with only days to go until the new year, a massive wave has struck the beaches around Sunda Strait in Indonesia on Saturday night, killing at least 222 people, according to Indonesian officials.
Meanwhile, roughly 850 people have been injured, while some two dozen are still missing. Sunda Strait separates the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra. Its coast is located about 62 miles from Jakarta.
The area worst hit by the volcano was the Pandeglang region of Java’s Banten province, which includes Ujung Kulon National Park and popular beaches, the disaster agency said.
A harrowing account of the devastation from the Associated Press described broken chunks of concrete and splintered sticks of wood strewn across hard-hit coastal areas. Beach getaways popular with Jakarta residents had been leveled and turned into near ghost towns. Destroyed vehicles remained capsized or piled on top of one another. Debris from bamboo shacks floated across the beaches.
The deadly wave is believed to have been caused by undersea landslides resulting from volcanic activity at Krakatoa, according to Indonesia’s disaster agency. Krakatoa is located in the Sunda Strait, and has been spewing ash and periodically erupting for the past several months.
Specifically, the agency believes an underwater landslide triggered by one of the eruptions at Krakatoa was the catalyst for the Saturday night tsunami.
The eruption rattled Mount Anak Krakatau (or “Child of Krakatoa”, an island formed by volcanic matter spewed by Krakatoa), which triggered an underwater landslide. The landslide happened to coincide with high tide to cause the maximum amount of damage.
“The tsunami was not triggered by an earthquake,” said one official. “It’s possible that it was triggered by an underwater landslide due to the eruption of Mount Anak Krakatau [that’s Child of Krakatoa]. At the same time there was high tide because of the full moon. So there was a combination of natural phenomena, tsunami and high tide.”
As the AP explains, “Child of Krakatoa” was formed after one of the deadliest volcanic eruptions in history, which occurred more than a century ago at Krakatoa. An eruption occurred roughly 24 minutes before the tsunami.
The volcano’s name translates to “Child of Krakatoa,” a volcanic island formed over years after one of the largest, most devastating eruptions in recorded history occurred at the Krakatoa volcano more than a century ago. The scientists also cited tidal waves caused by the full moon.
Another expert posited that the deadly wave may have been caused by what geologists call a “flank collapse.”
Gegar Prasetya, co-founder of the Tsunami Research Center Indonesia, said Saturday’s tsunami was likely caused by a flank collapse — when a big section of a volcano’s slope gives way. He said it’s possible for an eruption to trigger a landslide above ground or beneath the ocean, both capable of producing waves.
“Actually, the tsunami was not really big, only 1 meter (3.3 feet),” said Prasetya, who has closely studied Krakatoa. “The problem is people always tend to build everything close to the shoreline.”
One video that swiftly went viral, a tsunami wiped out the stage and pummeled the audience during a performance by the Indonesia pop band Seventeen at a venue on Tanjung Lesung beach in Pandeglang.
— ig @IGERS.BANTEN (@IgersBanten) December 23, 2018
The band later released a statement affirming that its bass player, guitarist and road manager had been found dead, while two other band members and one of their wives remained missing.
“The tide rose to the surface and dragged all the people on site,” the statement said. “Unfortunately, when the current receded our members were unable to save themselves while some did not find a place to hold on.”
Buildings near the coast of the worst-affected areas were completely destroyed. According to the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, at least 430 residential homes and 9 hotels were seriously damaged, but those numbers are expected to rise.
Videos of the devastation wrought by the flood waters have circulated online.
Dampak gelombang tinggi, air laut masuk ke Grand Elty Krakatoa, Kalianda Lampung Selatan, Sabtu (22/12) malam. Warga pesisir pun mengungsi ke tempat yang lebih tinggi mengindari terjadinya bencana. #iNews #Lampung #Tsunami pic.twitter.com/HbTIs7ylFS
— iNews (@OfficialiNewsTV) December 23, 2018
— BNO News (@BNONews) December 23, 2018
Data sementara dampak tsunami di Pantai di Kab Pandeglang, Serang dan Lampung Selatan hingga 23/12/2018 pukul 04.30 WIB: tercatat 20 orang meninggal dunia, 165 orang luka-luka, 2 orang hilang dan puluhan bangunan rusak. Data korban kemungkinan masih akan terus bertambah. pic.twitter.com/6f7buuoD5Y
— Sutopo Purwo Nugroho (@Sutopo_PN) December 22, 2018
Pope Francis has offered prayers for the victims and Joko Widodo offered his condolences, confirming that help was on its way to the region. Heavy rescue equipment and emergency soup kitchens have been prepared, and numerous charities, including Oxfam, have said they are dispatching help to the region.