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At least 168 dead after tsunami hits Indonesia, hundreds injured

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Image: Tsunami hits Sunda Strait in Western Indonesia
An Indonesian man looks at ruined vehicles after a tsunami hit Sunda Strait in Anyer, Banten, Indonesia, on Dec. 23, 2018. -
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DIAN TRIYULI HANDOKO
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JAKARTA, Indonesia — A spokesman for Indonesia's disaster management agency says at least 168 people have died and 30 are missing after a tsunami apparently triggered by a volcanic eruption swept away beachfront houses and hotels in western Indonesia.

Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho says those numbers may rise since not all affected areas have been reached.

About 745 people were injured in the tsunami, which struck at 9:27 p.m. Saturday, the agency said.

Footage posted on social media showed a pop band named "Seventeen" performing under a tent on a beach as dozens of people sat listening at tables. Then, in between songs with the drummer pounding, the stage suddenly heaved forward, throwing the band and all their equipment into the audience.

The band released a statement saying their bass player and road manager were found dead, while four other members of their group remained missing.

The worst affected area is the Pandeglang region of Banten province in Java, which encompasses the Ujung Kulon National Park and popular beaches. In the city of Bandar Lampung on southern Sumatra, hundreds of residents took refuge at the governor's office.

Residents inspect a house damaged by a tsunami in Carita, Indonesia, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018.
Residents inspect a house damaged by a tsunami in Carita, Indonesia, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018.AP

Scientists from Indonesia's Meteorology and Geophysics agency said it could have been caused by undersea landslides from the eruption of Anak Krakatau, a volcanic island formed over years from the nearby Krakatau volcano. They also cited tidal waves caused by the full moon.

"I had to run, as the wave passed the beach and landed 15-20m (meters) inland," Norwegian Øystein Lund Andersen wrote on Facebook. He said he was taking pictures of the volcano when he suddenly saw a big wave come toward him.

"Next wave entered the hotel area where I was staying and downed cars on the road behind it. Managed to evacuate with my family to higher ground trough forest paths and villages, where we are taken care of (by) the locals. Were unharmed, thankfully."

The worst affected area was the Pandeglang region of Banten province in Java, which encompasses the Ujung Kulon National Park and popular beaches, the disaster agency said. Of the deaths, 33 were in Pandeglang.

The Anak Krakatau volcano in the Sunda Strait that links the Indian Ocean and Java Sea erupted about 24 minutes before the tsunami, the geophysics agency said.

The 1,000-foot-high volcano, about 124 miles southwest of capital Jakarta, has been erupting since June. In July, authorities widened its no-go areas to 1.24 miles from the crater.

Residents inspect the damage to their homes on Carita beach on December 23, 2018, after the area was hit by a tsunami that may have been caused by the Anak Krakatoa volcano.
Residents inspect the damage to their homes on Carita beach on December 23, 2018, after the area was hit by a tsunami that may have been caused by the Anak Krakatoa volcano.SEMI

Gegar Prasetya, co-founder of the Tsunami Research Center Indonesia, said the waves were 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 a tsunami.

"Actually, the tsunami was not really big, only one meter," said Prasetya, who has closely studied Krakatau. "The problem is people always tend to build everything close to the shoreline."

Physical losses included 430 heavily damaged homes, nine heavily damaged hotels and 10 heavily damaged vessels. Footage posted by the head of the disaster agency showed the aftermath of flooded streets and an overturned car.

In September, more than 2,500 people were killed by a quake and tsunami that hit the city of Palu on the island of Sulawesi, which is just east of Borneo.