July 17, 2006

Tsunami on Indonesia’s Java coast kills 80 people

By Achmad Sukarsono

JAKARTA (Reuters) - A tsunami triggered by a strong
undersea earthquake off the coast of Indonesia's Java island on
Monday killed at least 80 people, swept away buildings and
damaged hundreds of fishing boats, officials and witnesses

News of the disaster spread panic across a region still
recovering from a tsunami less than two years ago in which
nearly 230,000 people were killed or reported missing, mostly
in Indonesia. But there were no reports of casualties or damage
in any other country from Monday's tsunami.

"Our latest data shows 80 people have died while at least
68 are badly injured. The number can climb because many may
have been swept away by the waves," Fitri Sidikah, an official
at the Indonesian Red Cross disaster center, told Reuters.

"We are going to send body bags, tents and other
equipment," she said. "Around 650 fishing boats are damaged."

Waves up to 1.5 metres (five feet) high crashed into
Pangandaran beach near the town of Ciamis, 270 km (170 miles)
southeast of Jakarta, killing 37 people, a local official said.

"The number could grow because when we went to the shore,
rescuers were trying to evacuate more bodies," Rudi Supriatna
Bahro told Metro TV.

Bahro said areas up to half a kilometre (550 yards) from
the beach were affected by the tsunami, with flimsily
constructed buildings flattened. "We need tents, food and
medical aid."

Indonesia's official Antara news agency reported deaths had
occurred at two other beach resorts in Java, and Metro TV put
the number of dead above 30 in the central Java port of

"The search is still going on to find those who probably
have been swept away by the tsunami waves," Indonesian
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, whose mainly Muslim country
is the world's fourth most populous, told reporters.

Sweden's Foreign Ministry said two Swedish children from a
holidaying family were said to be missing. There were no
immediate reports of other non-Indonesians dead or missing.

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


Indonesia's 17,000 islands sprawl along a belt of intense
volcanic and seismic activity, part of what is called the
"Pacific Ring of Fire."

A tsunami warning for Java's southern coast and nearby
Christmas Island was issued by the Pacific Center. Police on
Christmas Island, an Australian territory south of Indonesia,
said there was no damage there.

India also issued a warning for the Andaman and Nicobar
islands, badly hit by the 2004 tsunami, but officials said
there was no real threat. The Maldives, a low-lying chain of
islands to the southwest of India, also issued a warning.

The December 2004 tsunami was triggered by a massive
earthquake. Nearly 170,000 people were killed or reported
missing in Indonesia's Aceh province. Tens of thousands died
elsewhere, the majority in Sri Lanka, India and Thailand.

Pangandaran, the area that appeared to receive the brunt of
Monday's tsunami, is a popular local tourist spot with many
small hotels on the beach. It is close to a nature reserve.

The waves washed away wooden cottages and kiosks lining the
shoreline facing the Indian Ocean, witnesses said.

"When the waves came, I heard people screaming and then I
heard something like a plane about to crash nearby and I just
ran," Uli Sutarli, a plantation worker who was on Pangandaran
beach, told Reuters by telephone.

"All wooden structures are flattened to the ground but
hotel buildings made out of concrete are still standing," he

Hendri Subakti, head seismologist at the West Java
earthquake center, said the waves were a maximum of 1.5 metres
high, although some witnesses talked of waves up to 5 metres.

Some people were still fleeing the coastal area hours later
as rumours spread there could be another quake and tsunami.

Some workers in high-rise Jakarta buildings felt the quake,
which struck more than 40 km under the Indian Ocean and was
centred 180 km off Pangandaran beach, and fled their offices.

Earthquakes are frequent in Indonesia. In May, an
earthquake near the central Java city of Yogyakarta killed more
than 5,700 people.

(With additional reporting by Muklis Ali, Diyan Jari,
Muhamad Ari and Yoga Rusmana)