Nearly 400 killed after tsunami strikes Indonesia with no warning

CNN's Ivan Watson reports.

Posted: Dec 26, 2018 9:18 PM
Updated: Dec 26, 2018 9:20 PM

Bapu Suwarna had just wrapped up a work meeting at a hotel in Indonesia's Banten province when he heard a sound like thunder and saw people running and screaming, "Tsunami! Waves! Waves!" He'd soon find himself separated from his family.

He recalled his story days after Saturday's tsunami hit the Sunda Strait between the islands of Java and Sumatra, killing at least 429 people, according to the latest tally. The wave, which officials say reached as high as 5 meters (16 feet) in some areas, arrived with virtually no warning and also displaced 16,000 people and injured 1,485 more.

Want to help victims of the tsunami?

Officials said 154 people are missing, as of Tuesday, and they worry the numbers of dead, hurt and missing could rise as the rescue effort expands and the threat of more tsunamis looms.

According to Hendra Sudirman, the chief of Jakarta's search and rescue agency, rescuers have so far found 34 bodies at the Mutiara Carita resort on the Java coast that hosted Bapu's work meeting. The registered guests from the resort have been evacuated, but many caretakers of private cottages remain missing, the rescue chief said, leaving open the possibility of finding more bodies.

'Dad! Dad! Dad!'

Bapu said he first thought the thunderous clamor emanated from a concert near the Mutiara Carita resort, but it wasn't before long he realized it was much more.

"When I stepped out, I saw people running from the waves nearby the pool and dining hall," he said. "I saw that my cottage was dark and flooded with waves. I felt weak."

Standing in chest-high water, he watched as it reached the roof of his cottage, then, "I saw my car float and the alarms went off."

He and his friends took shelter, but he soon found himself asking, "Why were we waiting here? Our families were over there. Let's pick them up!"

Bapu pushed through the waves, dodging a log and tables floating by. When he got to the cottage, he heard one of his children shout, "Dad! Dad! Dad!" he said. He was shivering from the cold, but that didn't matter much once he found his wife, Piniarti, and three children -- ages, 4, 14, and 18 -- safe, he said.

Lead singer loses bandmates, wife

The 49-year-old father was lucky in that he was reunited with his loved ones. Many Indonesians enjoyed no such fortune. Among them is Riefan Fajarsyah, lead singer of the pop band Seventeen, which was performing at a Tanjung Lesung beach resort when the tsunami crashed onto the stage, collapsing it and carrying off his wife and bandmates.

Riefan said Sunday that two band members were killed, but his wife, Dylan Sahara, and three other members of Seventeen, he said on Instagram, were missing.

"Today is your birthday, I am wishing that you come home my love," he said in the post, which included an image of him and his wife kissing in Paris.

Wave crashes through stage at concert

On Monday, upon learning the three missing musicians were found dead, Riefan posted a tribute, calling them "family forever." On Tuesday, the news got worse for Riefan, when band manager Yulia Dian confirmed the singer's wife had been killed, too.

"She was the best wife God gave me. I couldn't ask for more," he wrote on Instagram.

Rescuers work amid tsunami threat

Tanjung Lesung, a popular tourist spot in Banten province, is one of the more remote areas rescuers still need to search, and it will take hours to reach the area from the Mutiara Carita resort where the bodies were found, said Hendra, the rescue chief. At least 16 people remain missing in the area, he said.

There are 371 search-and-rescue officials working on the coasts that bookend the Sunda Strait, all equipped with life jackets in the event of anther tsunami.

The Anak Krakatau volcano, roughly 40 to 50 kilometers (about 25 to 30 miles) from the Java and Sumatra coastlines, continues to erupt, leaving many in fear that more monster waves could arrive on Indonesia's shores.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Indonesia has said it expects the death toll to rise, and Doctors Without Borders has said the number of injured will likely go up as well.

On top of the massive human toll, property damage is extensive. An early assessment given to reporters Monday indicates more than 880 homes were destroyed, with 73 hotels, 60 restaurants and 435 boats suffering heavy damage.

It came out of nowhere

Witnesses have said they had no clue the tsunami was coming until seconds before it hit, and Bapu, the survivor at Mutiara Carita, is among many Indonesians pleading for a better early warning system for the archipelago, which is known for tectonic activity and tsunamis.

"From the bottom of my heart, I sincerely request that the government set up an early warning system so people can anticipate an incoming tsunami," he said. "I didn't have much time after the loud sounds were heard. Second, we need a better emergency response procedure."

Saturday's tsunami was unusual in that no earthquake preceded it, which officials said contributed to the lack of a warning.

Did tsunami warning system fail Indonesia again?

According to a conglomeration of agencies, the disaster was the product of multiple triggers: a volcanic eruption causing a 64-hectare (158-acre) chunk of Anak Krakatau to slide off the island volcano and into the ocean during a full moon at high tide.

The Sunda Strait has also experienced a spell of heavy rainfall, the agencies said.

The Indonesia Ministry of Maritime Affairs' sensors "did not sound early warning because they are for tectonic activity not volcanic activity," spokesman Rahmat Djamaluddin said.

As for tsunami warnings, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, provided a list of reasons why the outdated tsunami buoy network hasn't functioned properly in six years.

"Vandalism, limited budget, technical damage caused no tsunami (alerts) at this time," he said on his official Twitter account.

Despite the devastating December 26, 2004, tsunami that killed hundreds of thousands of people, Indonesia lacks proper equipment to warn of an incoming tsunami.

Officials also blamed the faulty warning system in October when a tsunami killed more than 2,000 people on the western coast of Sulawesi.

President Joko Widodo has ordered the country's Meteorology, Climatology and Geological Agency to purchase detectors to provide early warnings to Indonesians.

As long as the volcano remains active, residents should be vigilant, Sutopo said.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 24190

Reported Deaths: 1036
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin8181606
Ramsey2863122
Stearns201413
Nobles15125
Anoka136370
Dakota126354
Washington61731
Olmsted60810
Kandiyohi4901
Rice4522
Clay42426
Scott4082
Todd3130
Wright3051
Mower3031
Sherburne2372
Carver2062
Benton1753
Steele1590
Blue Earth1380
Martin1295
St. Louis11814
Freeborn1150
Pine890
Nicollet8610
Unassigned8610
Winona7915
Carlton730
Watonwan710
Cottonwood700
Crow Wing682
Goodhue663
Otter Tail640
Chisago611
Polk612
Itasca5410
Dodge520
Chippewa491
Lyon490
Morrison450
Meeker450
Le Sueur441
Douglas410
Becker390
Jackson390
Murray390
McLeod340
Isanti320
Waseca260
Rock220
Mille Lacs191
Faribault180
Swift180
Wabasha180
Fillmore171
Pennington170
Sibley160
Brown152
Beltrami140
Cass132
Norman130
Pipestone120
Kanabec111
Wilkin113
Marshall100
Pope90
Wadena90
Aitkin80
Koochiching70
Yellow Medicine60
Mahnomen61
Lincoln50
Renville50
Big Stone40
Grant40
Red Lake40
Redwood40
Clearwater30
Hubbard30
Traverse30
Lac qui Parle30
Roseau30
Houston20
Lake10
Kittson10
Stevens10

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 19217

Reported Deaths: 531
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk4160125
Woodbury274034
Black Hawk173944
Linn94976
Dallas89220
Marshall89216
Buena Vista7350
Johnson6149
Wapello5589
Muscatine55641
Crawford5142
Tama40227
Scott35810
Dubuque34518
Louisa34311
Jasper26116
Pottawattamie2578
Sioux2190
Washington1888
Wright1670
Plymouth1292
Warren1260
Allamakee1204
Story1091
Mahaska9310
Poweshiek908
Henry711
Bremer696
Des Moines621
Clinton611
Boone610
Taylor540
Clarke530
Guthrie503
Cedar461
Benton411
Webster391
Monroe385
Shelby370
Jones360
Hamilton350
Clayton343
Iowa330
Buchanan330
Osceola330
Marion320
Cerro Gordo281
Cherokee280
Madison282
Fayette270
Lee250
Winneshiek240
Monona240
Jefferson230
Harrison220
Davis210
Lyon210
Dickinson200
Grundy200
Mills190
Floyd191
Sac180
Humboldt170
Lucas170
Hardin160
Hancock160
Delaware150
Keokuk150
Clay150
Appanoose153
Butler151
Emmet140
Ida140
Page130
Greene130
Franklin130
Cass120
Howard120
Audubon121
Jackson120
Winnebago110
Pocahontas110
Chickasaw100
Carroll90
Van Buren90
Adair90
Kossuth90
Union70
Adams70
Montgomery70
Palo Alto60
Unassigned60
Fremont40
Mitchell40
Ringgold40
Worth30
Calhoun20
Wayne10
Decatur10
Rochester
Clear
53° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 53°
Mason City
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 54°
Albert Lea
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 54°
Austin
Clear
55° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 55°
Charles City
Clear
55° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 55°
Sunnier skies for the weekend
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Rochester People's Rally

Image

Religious leaders call for justice for George Floyd

Image

Rochester downtown under curfew Saturday night

Image

Sean Weather 5/30

Image

Governor Walz GivesUpdate

Image

Gov. Walz Addresses Minnesotans in Overnight Press Conference

Image

Riots, Fires continue in Minneapolis

Image

Protesters in Downtown Rochester

Image

Mower County Fair will go on as planned

Image

Minneapolis Gas Stations Shut Down

Community Events