Indonesia Tsunami Death Toll Almost Doubles, Rises to More Than 420

Photo: Achmad Ibrahim (AP)

A tsunami that slammed into the beaches of Indonesia’s Sunda Strait over the weekend has reportedly resulted in the deaths of at least 429 people.

While the cause is still unclear, scientists believe the event may have been caused by underwater landslides resulting from volcanic activity on the island of Anak Krakatoa. Saturday’s tsunami struck the neighboring islands of Java and Sumatra without warning, sending people running for their lives. Horrifying video captured the wave slamming into a beachside concert, collapsing the stage as it plowed through to the audience.

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Speaking with the Guardian, Dougal Jerram of the department of geosciences at the University of Oslo said tsunamis resulting from volcanic activity “may not trigger warning systems that are designed to alarm after large quakes, and thus may provide little warning, unless observed directly or detected by other devices such as wave buoy warning systems.”

Photo: Dian Triyuli Handoko (AP)

Hundreds of homes and dozens of hotels were damaged in the disaster, and thousands of people have been displaced. More than 1,400 people were injured, CNN reported Tuesday, and dozens are still missing. The U.S. State Department said it is continuing to monitor the situation and that it is “not aware of any U.S. citizens directly affected, but stand ready to assist as needed.”

The U.S. Geological Survey, an agency that would normally provide data on the disaster, saw a massive staff reduction resulting from the government shutdown that could last through the new year and has stalled some operations. The Huffington Post reported the agency is operating with only 75 of its roughly 8,032 employees.

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Authorities previously cautioned people in the area to avoid beaches around the Sunda Strait, per Reuters, noting a high-tide warning in place through Christmas Day. Residents were again warned on Monday to stay away from beaches over the possibility that another tsunami could strike.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman of Indonesia’s National Disaster Mitigation Agency, said that it is warning people to “remain cautious,” according to CNN. Nugroho added: “Agencies are still continuing to analyze the root cause ... the Krakatau volcano continues to erupt, which could potentially trigger another tsunami.”

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[New York Times, CNN]

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