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September 6, 2019
Fears of new Indonesia tsunami as Anak Krakatau volcano seethes
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Fears of new Indonesia tsunami as Anak Krakatau volcano seethes


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Media captionBuildings were flattened by the force of the tsunami

Coastal residents near Indonesia’s Anak Krakatau volcano have been warned to keep away from beaches amid fears it could trigger a new tsunami.

On Saturday, giant waves crashed into coastal towns on the islands of Sumatra and Java, killing at least 222 people and injuring 843.

It is thought that volcanic activity set off undersea landslides which in turn generated the killer waves.

Anak Krakatau was erupting again on Sunday, spewing ash and smoke.

Video shot from a charter plane captured the magnitude of the event in the Sunda Strait, between Sumatra and Java.

President Joko Widodo has expressed his sorrow for the victims and urged people to be patient.

Rescue efforts are being hampered by blocked roads but heavy lifting equipment is being transported to badly hit areas to help search for victims.

What warning was given?

The head of the National Disaster Management Agency, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, held a news conference on Java.

“Recommendations from [the] Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysical Agency are that people should not carry out activities on the beach and stay away from the coast for a while,” he said.

Image copyright
Gallo Images/Orbital Horizon/Copernicus Sentin

Image caption

A satellite image of Anak Krakatau erupting in August

“The potential for a fresh tsunami is still possible because the volcanic eruption of Anak Krakatau continues to occur, potentially triggering tsunami.”

Anak Krakatau, which formed in 1927 after the Krakatoa volcano eruption, has seen increased activity in recent months with people asked to avoid the area around its crater.

On Friday it erupted for two minutes and 12 seconds, creating an ash cloud that rose 400 metres above the mountain.

Why was Saturday’s tsunami so deadly?

It struck at 21:30 local time (14:30 GMT) during a local holiday, with few of the warning signals that might have come had it been generated by an earthquake.

Seawater did not recede as in an earthquake tsunami and experts say that even if there had been warning buoys near the volcano, there would have been minimal alert time.

However, officials say a warning siren did go off in some areas, Reuters news agency reports.

Image copyright
Social media

Image caption

Band Seventeen were performing on stage when the tsunami hit

The waves destroyed hundreds of buildings, sweeping away cars and uprooting trees in several popular tourist destinations including the Tanjung Lesung beach resort, west Java.

Footage shared on social media showed a large wave crashing into a tent in the resort, in which popular Indonesian rock band Seventeen was performing.

Members of the band were seen being swept away as the wave destroyed the stage.

Officials say more than 160 people were killed in Java’s Pandeglang tourist district.

On Sumatra, 48 were reported dead in South Lampung, and deaths were also reported in Serang district and Tanggamus.

So far, no foreign nationals have been reported dead, officials say.

What caused the tsunami?

By Jonathan Amos, BBC science correspondent

It is well known that volcanoes have the capacity to generate large waves. The mechanism as ever is the displacement of a large volume of water.

Except, unlike in a classic earthquake-driven tsunami in which the seafloor will thrust up or down, it seems an eruption event set in motion some kind of slide.

It is not clear at this stage whether part of the flank of the volcano has collapsed with material entering the sea and pushing water ahead of it, or if movement on the flank has triggered a rapid slump in sediment under the water surface.

The latter at this stage appears to be the emerging consensus, but the effect is the same – the water column is disturbed and waves propagate outwards.

How common are tsunamis in Indonesia?

Image copyright
Reuters

Image caption

Some residents in the Pandeglang region ran to a local mosque after the tsunami hit

Indonesia is prone to tsunamis because it lies on the Ring of Fire – the line of frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions that circles virtually the entire Pacific rim.

In September, more than 2,000 people died when a powerful earthquake struck just off the central Indonesian island of Sulawesi, setting off a tsunami that engulfed the coastal city of Palu.

On 26 December 2004, a series of huge waves triggered by a powerful earthquake in the Indian Ocean killed about 228,000 people in 13 countries, mostly in Indonesia.

However, tsunamis caused by volcanic activity like this are less frequent.

Krakatoa (Krakatau in Indonesian)

Image copyright
Oystein Lund Andersen

In August 1883, Krakatoa underwent one of the most violent volcanic eruptions in recorded history:

  • Massive tsunamis with waves of up to 41m killed more than 30,000 people
  • Thousands more were killed by hot ash
  • The eruptions were equivalent to 200 megatons of TNT – about 13,000 times the nuclear yield of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945
  • The eruptions were heard thousands of kilometres away
  • World temperatures dropped by more than 1C the following year
  • The volcanic island virtually disappeared

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Source BBC News

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