Java Tsunami Leaves 570 People Missing or Dead

JAKARTA, Indonesia, July 19, 2006 (ENS) - The death toll from Monday's disastrous tsunami on the south Java coast has risen to 341 people, Indonesian officials report. In addition, 229 others are counted as missing.

According to information made public by the Disaster Mitigation Task force at Pangandaran, a beach resort on Java's south coast that was inundated by the tsunami, the bodies of six foreign tourists were found in the rubble of damaged hotels.

Eight foreign tourists were evacuated to hospitals in West Java's provincial capital of Bandung because they sustained serious injuries. The visitors came from Australia, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Belgium, the Netherlands and France, and countries still to be identified, according to the official news agency Antara.

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The "X" indicates the approximate location of more than 30 earthquakes beneath the Indian Ocean since Monday afternoon. (Photo courtesy CIA World Factbook)
The four meter (13 foot) high tsunami that swept Java's west and central southern coast on Monday afternoon was triggered by a series of earthquakes deep beneath the Indian Ocean. Hotels and homes all along the shoreline were smashed, some 2,600 fishing boats are missing, and farmers were swept to their deaths as they worked their fields.

The U.S. Geological Survey measured the first and strongest quake at 7.7 on the Richter Scale located 355 km (220 miles) south of Jakarta and 265 km (165 miles) south of Bandung. There have been 30 subsequent quakes in the same location beneath the Indian Ocean, three of them measuring stronger than magnitude 6.0.

The most recent quake occurred this afternoon at 2:25 local time - a moderately strong temblor that was measured at a magnitude of 5.6.

No warnings were given in Indonesia ahead of Monday's tsunami, despite regional efforts to establish early warning systems after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that left about 230,000 dead or missing, including 170,000 in Aceh province on the island of Sumatra. Currently, a warning system is in place in Sumatra, but Java's is not due to start until 2007.

Warnings were issued about an hour ahead of the deadly wave by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii and by the Japan Meteorological Agency, but they were not passed along once they reached Indonesia.

A presidential spokesman said President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had decided to postpone a planned visit to Pangandaran and other hard hit areas of West Java, and Cilacap in Central Java, which had been scheduled for today, because he first wanted to monitor the latest developments.

Speaking after a Cabinet meeting late Tuesday, Vice President Jusuf Kalla said 80 people were injured and more than 40,000 others have been forced by the tsunami to flee from their homes.

The UN World Food Programme puts the number of the displaced in West Java at 305,000 people. In addition, the UN agency says, 800 people have been displaced in the Central Java region of Kebumen.

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Survivors wander through the wreckage searching for their belongings after a tsunami hit Java Monday afternoon. (Photo courtesy WFP)
Survivors are scattered in 15 different locations in six sub-districts, taking shelter in mosques and other buildings. About 2,500 residents of Cilacap have taken shelter at the Darussalam Grand Mosque following the tsunami, sleeping on the floor. Others are camping out. Three field kitchens have been set up and food is being distributed, according the the World Food Programme (WFP).

Three trucks, supplied by WFP corporate partner TNT and packed with high energy biscuits and noodles, left Jakarta late Tuesday for Pangandaran, 450 kilometers to the south, where an estimated 35,000 people have lost their homes.

The Indonesian Red Cross (PMI) dispatched action teams from seven local Red Cross branches, accompanied by ambulances and medical staff.

"Our volunteers and staff were mobilized as soon as they heard the news and have been working throughout the night to carry out search and rescue and provide people with drinking water and food," said Arifin Hadi, the head of PMI’s Disaster Management Division.

The earthquake and tsunami panicked people who were traumatized by the December 2004 tsunami and the devastating earthquake that killed thousands in the Javan city of Yogyakarta in May.

"We felt the earthquake and then later we saw families moving away from the sea, screaming 'Tsunami! Tsunami!'" Pak Limin told Red Cross workers. The man took his daughter and fled his Pangandaran home in search of safer ground.

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Tsunami survivors camp out with belongings they have salvaged from the wreckage. (Photo courtesy WFP)
Limin is now staying in one of many camps set up by local officials for internally displaced people. Indonesian Red Cross volunteers and staff from the International Federation are now traveling from camp to camp assessing the needs of displaced people for food, water, body bags and shelter.

The international agency Oxfam Tuesday dispatched four truck loads of hygiene kits and water and sanitation supplies to the Pangandaran and Ciamis Districts in West Java.

David Macdonald, Oxfam’s country program manager for Indonesia said, "We’re concerned that many people will have fled their homes, which could have been destroyed in the tsunami. Our humanitarian team is on the ground today, and we have water and sanitation supplies in place ready to respond. The local population rely on wells for fresh water supplies, and these could have been contaminated by the wall of sea water that crashed into the coastal towns."

Monday's disaster was the second devastating earthquake on Java within two months after a quake jolted the areas around Yogyakarta city May 27, killing at least 5,700 people and destroying 150,000 residences.