The tsunami hit at 9:27 p.m. Jakarta time (1427 GMT) on Saturday, after the eruption of the Anak Krakatau volcano, or Child of Krakatoa volcano in English, sparked underwater landslides, leading to the rise of the sea level, according to the agency.
The tsunami destroyed 556 houses, nine hotels and 360 ships in the district of Pandeglang, the hardest hit area, as well as Serang of Banten province and Lampung Selatan district of Lampung province, spokesman of national disaster management agency Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.
Many residents and tourists were forced to flee, but the spokesman did not give specific numbers, saying that evacuation centers are being set up.
“The figures are looked to rise as the recurrent risk assessment has not reached all affected areas,” he told a press conference on Sunday.
In the hardest-hit Pandeglang district, huge waves rattled residential areas and several tourist spots along the coastal area, such as Pantai Tanjung Lesung, Sumur, Penimbang, Teluk Lada and Carita, Sutopo said.
“When the tragedy occurred, many people were spending their time along the coastal areas of Pandeglang,” he added.
Thirty-three bodies were recovered in Pandeglang district alone, with 491 others injured and 409 houses and hotels damaged, said Sutopo.
The water submerged the area with a height of four to five meters, leaving scores of people missing, head of emergency department of disaster management agency in the district Endang Permana said.
“Many people were missing, they were swept by waves when they were watching a performance in coastal area,” Permana told Xinhua over phone.
The tsunami has brought grim and dire atmosphere along the Anyer coast line in Serang, capital of Indonesia’s Banten province with rubble from devastated houses and buildings scattered along the once popular beaches.
Sirens from ambulances and vehicles carrying police, military personnel and volunteers sounded from time to time in the area that used to be a popular place for a weekend get-away.
Most hotels, resorts, restaurants and convenient stores were indefinitely closed after the disaster.
Among the devastated areas was a beach in Cinangka village in Anyer, which used to be popular for its white sands and spates of coconut trees. All constructions made of bamboo on the beach were completely flattened.
Recalling the disastrous moment, local restaurant owner Eki Prasetya, a survivor, said the weather before the tsunami was “a bit strange.”
“Last night was so peaceful, no rain and no wind as well. It was just different from the days before as rain always fell down marred with strong wind,” he told Xinhua in Cinangka on Sunday afternoon.
His restaurant on the beach and his house nearby were destroyed by the tsunami.
He said the sea receded from the beach some 20 minutes before the tsunami hit. He had no idea it was a sign for a tsunami as he did not feel any earthquake or other abnormality.
“But the volcano has been very active lately. We heard thunderous sound from the volcano direction quite often. But it’s OK as it did not harm us here,” Eki said.
But when the tsunami hit, louder thundering sound from the sea made him curious as it was not the sound from the volcano.
“I was in my house with my wife and my son when I suddenly realized water had already submerged the floor. I held my son and yanked my wife out of the house quickly,” said 24-year-old Eki, the father of a toddler.
Eki said he watched his restaurant and his house, both made of bamboo, easily toppled down by the wave of the tsunami.
“The water that hit the beach was quite strong. I almost fell as I ran with my wife and my son. I saw everything that I built to earn my living gone in seconds. I don’t have anything now,” Eki said while collecting any valuable things from the debris that might be of use amid the choppy rain in the afternoon.
He put his wife and son in his parent’s house in another village far away from the beach.
After the tsunami occurred, the meteorology and geophysics agency banned the community from having activities in the coastal area of the strait, as assessment is underway on the risks of the volcano eruption, said Sutopo.
Heavy machinery equipment has been deployed in the catastrophe-hit areas to help with search and rescue operation.
In Lampung Selatan district, rescue of those trapped under the rubble and search for the missing are underway, said Ketut Sukerta, head of disaster management agency in the district.
“Over 100 buildings collapsed. We are now attempting to rescue the people trapped under the rubble and to find those swept by the waves,” he told Xinhua by phone from Lampung Selatan district.
“We are ready for deployment of more personnel and equipment to recover and rescue the affected people,” head of communication for media of national search and rescue office Yusuf Latief told Xinhua over phone.
In Serang, meanwhile, search and rescue teams are busy looking for possibly more bodies and those trapped under the rubble, as well as preparing camps to accommodate those who lost their houses.
A coordinator of the search team said over 700 people would be deployed in the search operation, which have been initially set for seven days from Sunday.
“We would set up the refugee camp in front of search team command center here tomorrow. We have also set up medical assistance facility here,” Johnny Effendi told Xinhua in the search command center in Cinangka village.
Citing updated data, he said 12 bodies have been found around the village, with dozens injured and 31 missing.
Indonesia is no stranger to tsunamis. The worst so far was the one, in which over 170,000 people were killed, in Aceh province on Dec. 26, 2004 as an Indian Ocean quake-triggered tsunami killed more than 226,000 people in over a dozen of countries along the Indian Ocean.
The Anak Krakatau is an island that emerged in 1927 and has kept growing since then. The Anak Krakatau volcano is one of the 129 active volcanoes in Indonesia, a vast archipelagic nation home to 17,500 islands and sits on a vulnerable quake-hit zone so called “the Pacific Ring of Fire.” (Xinhuanet)