Panic persists; toll hits 429 | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 26, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:06 AM, December 26, 2018


Panic persists; toll hits 429

Rescuers use drones, dogs to find victims; 1450 injured; 154 missing

A small Christmas service was held near a stretch of Indonesia's tsunami-struck coastline yesterday, as panicked residents in one coastal town tried to flee after rumours spread that another deadly wave was about to smash into the coast.

It turned out to be a false alarm, but widespread fears about a repeat disaster -- and warnings that clean water and medicine supplies were running low -- rippled across the region as the death toll from Saturday's volcano-triggered disaster topped 400.

Thousands more have been displaced, with many left homeless after houses were flattened by the killer wave.

The powerful tsunami struck at night and without warning, sweeping over popular beaches on southern Sumatra and the western edge of Java and inundating tourist hotels and coastal settlements.

The latest death toll stood at 429, with 1,485 people injured and another 154 still missing.

Experts have warned that more deadly waves could slam the stricken region now covered by mountains of overturned cars, boats, furniture and other debris.

Many evacuees are too afraid to go home.

Authorities are using sniffer dogs to try to find any survivors and victims' bodies, while they have turned to drones to survey the devastated coastlines.

In shattered Way Muli village on Sumatra, Udin Ahok was coming to grips with the horrible choice he was forced to make: save his wife or his mother and baby.

When the tsunami slammed into his house, the panicked Ahok fought to reach his sleeping 70-year-old mother and one-year-old son but then he saw his wife about to drown in the swirling waters. He plucked her to safety.

His mother and baby were found dead under mountains of debris.

"I didn't have time to save my mother and son," the weeping 46-year-old told AFP from a shelter in one of the stricken region's hardest-hit areas.

“I regret it so much. I can only hope they've been given a place in God's hands."

Officials say the evidence suggested that an eruption of the rumbling Anak Krakatoa volcano, which sits in the middle of the Strait, caused a section of the crater to collapse and slide into the ocean, triggering the tsunami. Anak Krakatoa is an island that emerged around 1928 in the crater left by Krakatoa, whose massive 1883 eruption killed at least 36,000 people.

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