July 17, 2006

Tsunami hits Indonesia’s Java, 11 reported killed

By Achmad Sukarsono

JAKARTA (Reuters) - A strong undersea earthquake off the
southern coast of Indonesia's Java island on Monday triggered a
tsunami that swept away buildings at a popular beach resort and
killed at least 11 people, according to local news reports.

There were no reports of casualties or damage in any other
country. But the news caused panic across the region, which is
still recovering from a tsunami less than two years ago that
left nearly 230,000 people killed or missing, mostly in

The official Antara news agency said 11 people had been
killed along the southern Java coast on Monday.

"An earthquake has happened and then was followed by a
tsunami on the southern coast of Ciamis (regency)," Indonesian
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono told a news conference.

"... the search is still going on to find those who
probably have been swept away by the tsunami waves."

A tsunami warning for Java's southern coast and nearby
Christmas Island, south of the Indonesian archipelago, was
issued by the U.S.-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. Police
on Christmas Island, an Australian territory, 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.

A massive earthquake in December 2004 triggered a tsunami
that left nearly 230,000 people killed or missing, at least
170,000 of them in Indonesia's Aceh province. Tens of thousands
died elsewhere, the majority in Sri Lanka, India and Thailand.

On Monday, a policeman at Pangandaran Beach near
Indonesia's Ciamis town, around 270 km (168 miles) southeast of
Jakarta, told Metro TV that the death toll was likely to climb.

"Everything looks like a mess. Buildings on the southern
coast have been damaged. Only permanent buildings are still
standing," said the policeman, called Agus.

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 and 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. There
is rubbish everywhere," he added.

"I think there will be a lot of fatalities because probably
they are buried under rubble. The road to the scene is covered
by rubbish brought by the waves," policeman Agus said.

A woman who said she was a witness had earlier told
Jakarta-based Radio Elshinta that waves came several hundred
metres inland at Pangandaran Beach.

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

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

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center had said the quake,
which hit at 0819 GMT, was of 7.2 magnitude.

Indonesia's state meteorology and geophysics agency
initially rated the quake at 5.5 magnitude, but later changed
that to 6.8, and said there were two significant aftershocks.

An official at the country's main fixed line operator,
Telkom, said the phone system in the area was down.

Some occupants of high-rise Jakarta buildings felt the
quake, which had an epicentre more than 40 kilometres under the
Indian Ocean 180 km off Pangandaran beach, and fled their

Earthquakes are frequent in Indonesia, the world's fourth
most populous country. In May, an earthquake near the central
Java city of Yogyakarta killed more than 5,700 people.

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."

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