Java Tsunami Sweeps More Than 100 People to Their Deaths

JAKARTA, Indonesia, July 17, 2006 (ENS) - At least 105 people are reported dead in West Java province after a tsunami triggered by a severe earthquake beneath the Indian Ocean inundated the southern coast of the island of Java. The flooding wave sent thousands of people fleeing to higher ground.

The tsunami was touched off by a severe earthquake that occurred at 3:19 pm local time today. The epicenter of the quake was about 355 kilometers (220 miles) south of Jakarta and 260 kilometers (160 miles) south of Bangdung, Java, Indonesia.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center based in Hawaii said the quake had a magnitude of 7.2, while the U.S. Geological Survey measured the magnitude at 7.7 on the Richter Scale. Indonesia's state meteorology and geophysics agency said the quake measured 6.8 magnitude.

It was followed by a number of other tremors, including two other earthquakes. A smaller quake, occurring about six hours after the first, was measured at a magnitude of 6.1 and a third quake an hour later registered magnitude 6.0 in almost the same location.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii and the Japanese Meteorological agency issued local tsunami warnings.

The tsunami wave struck Pangandaran, a popular seaside resort and surfing spot in West Java, killing 46 people and smashing hotels and houses along the coast. Another 46 people were found dead at Cipatujah beach in Central Java.

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The beach at Pangandaran, Java before the tsunami (Photo courtesy Eric Setiawan)
"There are 105 people dead from 10 regencies, 148 people are injured and 127 still missing," said Putu Suryawan, the official at the Indonesian Red Cross disaster center. Some 2,875 people have been been left homeless, he said.

Hardi, a Pangalengan resident, told the "Jakarta Post" that the wave came in at a speed of 40 kilometers per hour, smashing hundreds of houses and hotels located some 100 meters from the popular beach.

"The wave was at least five meters high," he said. "More people may be found under the rubble."

Hundreds of local fishermen are feared lost in the huge wave, and officials are warning Javans to stay away from the beaches, fearing further quakes and resultant tsunamis.

Tidal surges caused by the earthquakes reached the Australian territories of Christmas Island and Cocos Island on Monday but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties, according to an official from the government agency Geoscience Australia.

"This was a shallow event, occurring below the Indian Ocean," Geoscience Australia duty seismologist David Jepsen said in a statement. "The earthquake could have been felt within an 1,100 kilometer (680 mile) radius of the epicenter."

"This is a very active region, being the eastern part of the tectonic plate boundary that ruptured and caused the tsunami that devastated countries bordering the Indian Ocean in December 2004," Jepsen said. Nearly 170,000 people were killed or reported missing in Indonesia's Aceh province. Tens of thousands died elsewhere around the Indian Ocean, most in Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand.

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A child with her family's relief supplies. The Indonesian Red Cross, with the support of the International Federation, has distributed relief to more than 10,000 families affected by earlier quakes this year. Some emergency supplies may still be in storage, available for the survivors of this disaster. (Photo Olav Saltbones courtesy IFRC)
Two assessment teams are being sent to the affected areas, one from Yogyakarta and the other one from Jakarta. The former is going to Central Java and includes staff from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Oxfam Great Britain and the Indonesian Red Cross Society. The latter is going to West Java and includes staff from OCHA, the UN Development Programme, the United Nations Childrens' Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme, and the World Health Organization.

"We’ve been in touch with our office in Java and based on what we know now, there are at least 60 people killed and about 60 people missing so far," said UNICEF Emergency Officer Lina Sofiani in Jakarta. "Tomorrow morning we will join the UN team to do a rapid assessment in the area."

Sofiani said there were reports that thousands of people may have been displaced as a result of the quake and tsunami, but she could not yet confirm that number.

"If we have thousands of people displaced, then we need to assess the condition of women and children along with the schools and the condition of health facilities in the area," she said.

Today's earthquakes come less than two months after an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.3 struck near the city of Yogyakarta in Central Java on May 27, causing extreme and widespread destruction. The Ministry of Health reported 6,736 dead and 134,396 were injured in that quake, which left 1.85 million people homeless.