How the tsunami occurred without warning

CNN's Allison Chinchar explains how a volcano triggered the deadly tsunami in Indonesia.

Posted: Dec 24, 2018 1:47 PM
Updated: Dec 24, 2018 2:15 PM

As the threat of more deadly tsunamis casts a pall of fear over Indonesia, the country's National Disaster Mitigation Agency said Monday that more than 5,600 people are displaced.

That's on top of 373 killed, 1,459 injured and 128 missing.

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Even if no more disasters like Saturday's tsunami strike the Java and Sumatra coasts, those numbers could still rise, as authorities work to gauge the scope of the disaster.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Indonesia expects the death toll to rise, spokeswoman Kathy Mueller said, explaining that the nonprofit is providing residents with basic household items, clean water and equipment to clear debris.

Doctors Without Borders also expects the number of injured to go up, as more victims were expected to arrive at hospitals over the coming days.

On top of the massive human toll, the property damage is also extensive. Early assessments indicate that 558 hotels were destroyed, and nine hotels, 60 restaurants and 350 boats suffered heavy damage.

Many factors

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, which runs between Java and Sumatra, has also experienced a spell of high rainfall, the agencies said.

The wave, which the local media described as 3 meters (10 feet) high, sent residents running for safety as beachfront homes were swept away.

Wave crashes through stage at concert

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

As long as the volcano remains active, residents should be vigilant, said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for the disaster mitigation agency.

Why no warning?

Many witnesses said Saturday's tsunami struck with no warning, and President Joko Widodo, who was scheduled to visit the disaster zone Monday, has ordered the country's Meteorology, Climatology and Geological Agency to purchase detectors to provide early warnings to Indonesians.

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

As for tsunami warnings, Sutopo provided a list of reasons for 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.

Did tsunami warning system fail Indonesia again?

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

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

Anak Krakatau is known for its 1883 eruption -- one of the deadliest in recorded history -- that killed more than 36,000 people.

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