Tsunami Hits Tonga, US West Coast On Alert After Volcano Erupts

A grab taken from footage by Japan's Himawari-8 satellite and released by the National Institute of Information and Communications (Japan) on January 15, 2022 shows the volcanic eruption that provoked a tsunami in Tonga. Handout / NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATIONS (JAPAN) / AFP
A grab taken from footage by Japan’s Himawari-8 satellite and released by the National Institute of Information and Communications (Japan) on January 15, 2022 shows the volcanic eruption that provoked a tsunami in Tonga. Handout / NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATIONS (JAPAN) / AFP

 

Frightened Tongans fled to higher ground Saturday after a massive volcanic eruption sent tsunami waves crashing onto the South Pacific island and triggered warnings as far as the US West Coast. 

Dramatic images from space showed the moment the latest eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai sent a mushroom of smoke and ash into the air and a shockwave across the surrounding waters.

A tsunami wave measuring 1.2 metres (four feet) was observed in Tonga’s capital Nuku’alofa, according to Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology.

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Local resident Mere Taufa said she was in her house getting ready for dinner when the undersea volcano erupted — sending water surging into her home.

“It was massive, the ground shook, our house was shaking. It came in waves. My younger brother thought bombs were exploding nearby,” Taufa told the Stuff news website.

She said water filled their home minutes later and she saw the wall of a neighbouring house collapse.

“We just knew straight away it was a tsunami. Just water gushing into our home.

“You could just hear screams everywhere, people screaming for safety, for everyone to get to higher ground.”

Tonga’s King Tupou VI was reported to have been evacuated from the Royal Palace in Nuku’alofa and taken by police convoy to a villa well away from the coastline.

The volcano’s eruption lasted at least eight minutes and sent plumes of gas, ash and smoke several kilometres into the air.

Residents in coastal areas were urged to head for higher ground following the eruption — which came just a few hours after a previous tsunami warning was lifted on the island.

‘Keep away’

The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano sits on an uninhabited island about 65 kilometres north of the Tongan capital Nuku’alofa.

Its latest eruption was so intense it was heard as “loud thunder sounds” in Fiji more than 800 kilometres (500 miles) away, according to officials in Suva City — where images shared on social media showed large waves hitting the coast.

Tsunami warnings were issued for American Samoa, New Zealand, Fiji, Vanuatu, Chile and Australia — where authorities said a swathe of coastline, including Sydney, could be hit by tsunami waves.

People in surrounding New South Wales state were “advised to get out of the water and move away from the immediate water’s edge”.

A tsunami warning was issued for the entire US West Coast — from the bottom of California to the tip of Alaska’s Aleutian islands — while tsunami waves triggered “minor flooding” in Hawaii according to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

“Move off the beach and out of harbors and marinas in these areas,” advised the US National Weather Service, which predicted waves of up to two feet, strong rip currents and coastal flooding.

Fijian officials warned residents to cover water collection tanks in case of acidic rain fall.

Victorina Kioa of the Tonga Public Service Commission said Friday that people should “keep away from areas of warning which are low-lying coastal areas, reefs and beaches”.

The head of Tonga Geological Services, Taaniela Kula, urged people to stay indoors, wear a mask if they were outside and cover rainwater reservoirs and rainwater harvesting systems.

AFP

WHO Warns Of COVID-19 ‘Tsunami’ As Omicron Fuels Record Surges

Travellers make their way through Miami International Airport on December 28, 2021, in Miami, Florida.  AFP

 

A Covid “tsunami” threatens to overwhelm healthcare systems, the WHO said Wednesday, as record surges fuelled by the Omicron variant dampened New Year celebrations around the world once again.

Governments are walking a tightrope between anti-virus restrictions and the need to keep societies and economies open, as the highly transmissible variant drove cases to levels never seen before in the United States, Britain, France and Denmark.

The blistering surge was illustrated by AFP’s tally of 6.55 million new infections reported globally in the week ending Tuesday, the highest the figure has been since the World Health Organization declared a Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020.

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“I am highly concerned that Omicron, being more transmissible, circulating at the same time as Delta, is leading to a tsunami of cases,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“This is and will continue to put immense pressure on exhausted health workers, and health systems on the brink of collapse.”

The variant has already started to overwhelm some hospitals in the United States, the hardest-hit nation where the seven-day average of new cases hit 265,427, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker.

“This virus will continue to evolve and threaten our health systems if we don’t improve the collective response.

“Right now, Delta and Omicron are twin threats that are driving up cases to record numbers, which again is leading to spikes in hospitalisations and deaths,” Ghebreyesus added.

Harvard epidemiologist and immunologist Michael Mina tweeted that the count was likely just the “tip of the iceberg” with the true number likely far higher because of a shortage of tests.

But there was some hope as data indicated a decoupling of the number of cases and hospitalisations.

“We should not become complacent,” top US infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci said Wednesday, but “all indications point to a lesser severity of Omicron”.

At a drive-through virus testing site in Miami, Florida, on Wednesday, there were long lines of cars with people waiting to provide samples.

“Half of my family has it, you know this new variant is very, very spreadable, like way more spreadable than the first time around,” said resident Victoria Sierralta.

“It’s like we’re back in like the first stage of Covid. It’s absolutely crazy.”

 

 ‘This is serious’

Millions around the world will again welcome a new year in the shadow of the pandemic, which is known to have killed more than 5.4 million people so far, with festivities dampened or cancelled in many countries.

Greece on Wednesday banned music in bars and restaurants to try and limit New Year’s Eve parties, with public events already cancelled.

The mayor of Mexico’s capital has cancelled the city’s massive New Year’s Eve celebrations after a spike in cases.

Despite the outbreak concerns, the streets of Mexico City were busy on Wednesday.

“I don’t think that such an event with such economic importance should be cancelled, however health comes before everything else,” said 59-year-old teacher Victor Arturo Madrid Contreras.

With the “cancellation they are sending a message… ‘You know what? This is serious’.”

People wait in line for a Covid-19 test in Los Angeles, California, on December 27, 2021, as the Omicron variant continues to surge across the country. PHOTO: Robyn Beck / AFP

 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson meanwhile defended his decision not to clamp down on festivities over the holidays, saying around 90 percent of Covid patients in intensive care had not received a vaccine booster.

The number of people in hospital with the coronavirus topped 10,000 in England, the highest total since March, as Britain on Wednesday reported a new record of 183,037 daily cases.

The high take-up of boosters in England “is allowing us to go ahead with New Year in the cautious way that we are”, Johnson said, despite new closures in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

 

 

Records cases in France, Denmark

Across the Channel, France too hit a new daily record of more than 200,000 cases — more than double the number on Christmas Day — as it extended its closure of nightclubs into January.

Wearing masks outdoors will become compulsory in Paris on Friday for everyone over the age of 11 except those inside vehicles, cyclists, users of other two-wheelers such as scooters and those participating in sports.

Denmark, which currently has the world’s highest rate of infection per person, recorded a fresh record of 23,228 new cases, which authorities attributed in part to the large numbers of tests carried out after Christmas celebrations.

Portugal also saw a record with nearly 27,000 cases reported in 24 hours.

AFP

‘Thankful For Life’: Japan Disaster Survivors Meet Pope

Pope Francis (front, R) greets a man, one of ten disaster victims during a meeting with the victims of triple disaster in Tokyo on November 25, 2019. Pope Francis called for renewed efforts to help victims of Japan’s 2011 “triple disaster” of earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima meltdown, noting “concern” in the country over the continued use of nuclear power. Kazuhiro NOGI / AFP

 

 

Survivors of Japan’s so-called “triple disaster”, the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown, told Pope Francis on Monday they were “thankful for being given life” and urged solidarity with victims.

Toshiko Kato was at her job as head of a Catholic kindergarten in Iwate region when the quake and tsunami hit on March 11, 2011. The massive waves that killed nearly 16,000 people caused enormous destruction, including sweeping away her home.

“That morning, I could not have known that the daily life I had known before I left the house would end, that in an instant many people would die,” she told Francis.

“I remember that when I stood in the rubble where my home had been, I was thankful for being given life, for being alive, and for just being able to appreciate it.”

And Kato said she felt she had “received much more than I lost.”

“Many people from all over the world opened their hearts and I was able to find hope from seeing people come together to help one another,” she said.

“Life is the most important thing, and no good life is lost.”

The human cost of the quake and tsunami was enormous — with 18,500 dead or missing. The meltdown itself killed no one, but more than 3,700 people who survived the triple disaster later died as a result of complications related to evacuations.

Nearly half a million people fled their homes in the first days after the quake and even today, roughly 50,000 remain in temporary housing.

‘I Wanted To Die’

Among those forced to evacuate was Matsuki Kamoshita, who was eight when the nuclear meltdown happened.

His father, a teacher, remained in Fukushima region to help his students, while Kamoshita and his three-year-old brother moved from place to place with their mother.

“My brother would burrow into his futon and cry. I was bullied… and every day was so painful I wanted to die,” he told Francis, speaking steadily before the crowd.

“Eventually, my father got mentally and physically ill and stopped working. Even so, I still think we are fortunate because we were able to evacuate.”

Japan’s government has been encouraging people who evacuated to return to areas that have now been declared safe after extensive decontamination.

But many fear their former homes are not really safe, and others are reluctant to return to what have in some cases become ghost towns, with few services, particularly for young families.

In his address to survivors, Francis called for renewed efforts to support the victims of the disaster.

“In this way, those who are suffering will be supported and know that they have not been forgotten,” he said.

“We cannot fully convey our suffering,” Kamoshita told Francis, who he hugged after delivering his remarks.

“Pray with us, Holy Father, that we can appreciate each other’s pain and love our neighbours. Pray that even in this cruel reality, we will be given the courage not to turn our eyes away.”

Strong 6.6-Magnitude Quake Hits Off Indonesia

 

A strong 6.6-magnitude earthquake struck off the Indonesian coast early Monday, sending residents running out of their homes, but no tsunami warning was issued.

The quake hit at a depth of 60 kilometres (40 miles) under the Molucca Sea, some 175 kilometres north northwest of the city of Ternate, according to the USGS.

There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties and Indonesia’s geophysics agency did not issue a tsunami alert.

“We felt the quake and some people got out of their house but there was no real panic. There is no damage in my area,” said a man from Ternate called Budi, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.

Bani Nasution, a man who was in the city of Manado when the quake struck, told AFP: “I ran out of my house and so did other people here, but we’ve all returned to our houses now.”

A series of aftershocks also rocked the area.

READ ALSO: Trump Digs In On Wall, As Shutdown Enters Week Three

Indonesia is still reeling from a deadly tsunami at the end of December triggered by an erupting volcano in the middle of the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra islands that killed more than 400 people.

The vast Southeast Asian archipelago is one of the most disaster-hit nations on Earth due to its position straddling the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, where tectonic plates collide.

The tsunami was Indonesia’s third major natural disaster in six months, following a series of powerful earthquakes on the island of Lombok in July and August and a quake-tsunami in September that killed around 2,200 people in Palu on Sulawesi island, with thousands more missing and presumed dead.

Sick, Hungry Indonesia Tsunami Survivours In Desperate Need Of Food, Shelter

Tsunami-affected children receive food items in Rajabasa in Lampung province on December 25, 2018, three days after the disaster – caused by activity at a volcano known as the “child” of Krakatoa – hit the west coast of Indonesia’s Java island. PHOTO: MOHD RASFAN / AFP

 

Desperately-needed aid flowed into a stretch of Indonesia’s tsunami-struck coastline Tuesday, but humanitarian workers warned that clean water and medicine supplies were dwindling as thousands crammed makeshift evacuation centres.

Fears about a public health crisis come as the death toll from Saturday’s volcano-triggered disaster topped 400 with thousands more displaced — many left homeless after houses were flattened by the killer wave.

“A lot of the children are sick with fevers, headaches and they haven’t had enough water,” said Rizal Alimin, a doctor working for NGO Aksi Cepat Tanggap, at a local school that was turned into a temporary shelter.

“We have less medicine than usual … It’s not healthy here for evacuees. There isn’t enough clean water. They need food and people are sleeping on the floor.”

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 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 return home, fearing another tsunami.

“I’ve been here three days,” said Neng Sumarni, 40, who was sleeping with her three children and husband on the school’s floor with some three dozen others.

“I’m scared because my home is right near the beach.”

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.

“We are still searching for victims who might still be buried under the rubble,” said Ketut Sukarta, head of the disaster agency in South Lampung on Sumatra.

‘Can’t reach them’

Abu Salim, with volunteer disaster aid group Tagana, said aid workers were scrambling to stabilise the situation.

“Today we’re focusing on helping the evacuees in shelters by setting up public kitchens and distributing logistics and more tents in suitable places,” he told AFP on Tuesday.

“(People) still don’t have access to running water … There are many evacuees who fled to higher ground and we still can’t reach them.”

Aid was flowing in mainly by road while two government boats were on their way to several islands near the Sumatran coast to help dozens of marooned residents.

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.”

Across the Sunda Strait in Java island, Saki stood amid the rubble of what was once Sumber Jaya village and wondered aloud how he would get his life back on track.

“I can’t rebuild, everything is gone — my clothes, my money,” said the 60-year-old, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.

String of disasters

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.

Unlike those caused by earthquakes, which usually trigger alert systems, volcano-triggered tsunamis give authorities very little time to warn residents of the impending threat.

Indonesia’s disaster agency initially said there was no tsunami threat at all, even as the killer wave crashed ashore.

It was later forced to issue a correction and an apology as it pointed to a lack of early warning systems for the high death toll.

Disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said on Monday: “The lack of a tsunami early warning system caused a lot of victims because people did not have the time to evacuate.”

The tsunami was Indonesia’s third major natural disaster in six months, following a series of powerful earthquakes on the island of Lombok in July and August and a quake-tsunami in September that killed around 2,200 people in Palu on Sulawesi island, with thousands more missing and presumed dead.

It also came less than a week before the 14th anniversary of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, one of the deadliest disasters in history that killed some 220,000 people in countries around the Indian Ocean, including some 168,000 Indonesians.

The vast archipelago nation is one of the most disaster-hit nations on Earth due to its position straddling the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, where tectonic plates collide.

AFP

Indonesia Tsunami Death Toll Rises To 373

A rescuer counts the bodies of victims at a makeshift mortuary in Carita on December 23, 2018, after the area was hit by a tsunami on December 22 following an eruption of the Anak Krakatoa volcano. 

 

The death toll from a volcano-triggered tsunami in Indonesia has risen to 373, with more than 1,400 people injured, the national disaster agency said Monday.

Some 128 were still missing following Saturday’s volcano-triggered tsunami that hit southern Sumatra and western Java.

AFP

Death Toll From Indonesia Tsunami Rises To 222

A rescuer counts the bodies of victims at a makeshift mortuary in Carita on December 23, 2018, after the area was hit by a tsunami on December 22 following an eruption of the Anak Krakatoa volcano. PHOTO: DEMY SANJAYA / AFP

 

A volcano-triggered tsunami has left at least 222 people dead and hundreds more injured after slamming without warning into beaches around Indonesia’s Sunda Strait, officials said Sunday, voicing fears that the toll would rise further.

Hundreds of buildings were destroyed by the wave, which hit the coast of southern Sumatra and the western tip of Java about 9:30 pm (1430 GMT) on Saturday after a volcano known as the “child” of Krakatoa erupted, national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.

Dramatic video posted on social media showed a wall of water suddenly crashing into a concert by pop group “Seventeen” — hurling band members off the stage and then flooding into the audience.

In a tearful Instagram post, frontman Riefian Fajarsyah said the band’s bassist and road manager had been killed and his wife was missing.

Search and rescue teams were scouring rubble for survivors, with 222 people confirmed dead, 843 people injured and 28 missing, Nugroho said.

Tsunamis triggered by volcanic eruptions are relatively rare, caused by the sudden displacement of water or “slope failure”, according to the International Tsunami Information Centre.

Unlike those caused by earthquakes, which trigger alert systems, they give authorities very little time to warn residents of the impending threat.

The destructive wave left a trail of uprooted trees and debris strewn across beaches. A tangled mess of corrugated steel roofing, timber and rubble was dragged inland at Carita beach, a popular spot for day-trippers on the west coast of Java.

Photographer Oystein Andersen described how he was caught up in the disaster while on the beach taking photos of Anak Krakatoa.

“I suddenly saw a big wave,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

“I had to run, as the wave passed the beach and landed 15-20m inland. (The) next wave entered the hotel area where I was staying and downed cars on the road behind it.”

Asep Perangkat said he was with his family when the wave surged through Carita, carving a swathe of destruction, dragging cars and shipping containers.

“Buildings on the edge of the beach were destroyed. Trees and electric poles fell to the ground,” he told AFP.

In Lampung province, on the other side of the strait, Lutfi Al Rasyid fled the beach in Kalianda city, fearing for his life.

“I could not start my motorbike so I left it and I ran… I just prayed and ran as far as I could,” the 23-year-old told AFP.

Kathy Mueller from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said the toll was likely to rise as the conditions on the ground became clearer.

“The situation, and the death toll will remain fluid over the next days and even weeks,” she told AFP.

Aid workers were helping to evacuate the injured and bring in clean water, tarpaulins and provide shelter, she added, saying the group was preparing for the possibility of diseases breaking out in the tsunami zone.

 Initial error

Anak Krakatoa, which forms a small island in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra, emerged around 1928 in the crater left by Krakatoa, which erupted in 1883 killing at least 36,000 people.

“The cause of the undersea landslide was due to volcanic activity of Anak Krakatoa, which coincided with high tide due to the full moon,” Nugroho told reporters in Yogyakarta.

Professor David Rothery from The Open University said that the proximity of the volcano to the coast gave authorities very little time to act.

“Tsunami warning buoys are positioned to warn of tsunamis originated by earthquakes at underwater tectonic plate boundaries. Even if there had been such a buoy right next to Anak Krakatau, this is so close to the affected shorelines that warning time would have been minimal given the high speeds at which tsunami waves travel,” he said.

Indonesian authorities initially said the wave was not a tsunami, but instead a tidal surge and urged the public not to panic.

Nugroho later apologised, saying because there was no earthquake it had been difficult to ascertain the cause of the incident early on.

“If there is an initial error we’re sorry,” he wrote on Twitter.

The wave swamped parts of the coast around the Sunda Strait, leaving at least 164 people dead in worst-affected Pandeglang district on Java’s western tip.

Large numbers of casualties were recorded at two hotels in the area, Nugroho said, without elaborating.

Eleven people died further north in Serang, while 48 were killed in South Lampung, on Sumatra island.

“This number is predicted to increase,” Nugroho said.

Heavy equipment was being transported to badly hit areas to help search for victims and evacuation posts and public kitchens were being set up for evacuees, he added.

According to Indonesia’s geological agency, Anak Krakatoa had been showing signs of heightened activity for days, spewing plumes of ash thousands of meters into the air.

Indonesia is one of the most disaster-prone nations on Earth due to its position straddling the so-called Pacific “Ring of Fire”, where tectonic plates collide.

Most recently in the city of Palu on Sulawesi island a quake and tsunami in September killed thousands of people.

On December 26, 2004, a tsunami triggered by a magnitude 9.3 undersea earthquake off the coast of Sumatra in western Indonesia killed 220,000 people in countries around the Indian Ocean, including 168,000 in Indonesia.

AFP

‘Volcano’ Tsunami Kills At Least 168 In Indonesia

Rescuers carry body bags of victims to a makeshift mortuary in Carita on December 23, 2018, after the area was hit by a tsunami on December 22 following an eruption of the Anak Krakatoa volcano. PHOTO: RONALD / AFP

A tsunami following a volcanic eruption killed at least 168 people when it slammed without warning into popular beaches around Indonesia’s Sunda Strait on Saturday night, cutting a swathe of destruction and triggering mass panic as it swept inland.

Hundreds of buildings were destroyed by the wave, which hit the coast of southern Sumatra and the western tip of Java about 9:30 pm (1430 GMT) following the eruption of a volcano known as the “child” of the legendary Krakatoa, national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.

Search and rescue teams were scouring rubble for survivors, with 168 confirmed dead, 745 people injured and 30 reported missing across three regions, he said.

Dramatic video posted on social media showed a wall of water suddenly crashing into an open-air concert by pop group “Seventeen” —  hurling band members off the stage and then flooding into the audience.

In a tearful Instagram post, frontman Riefian Fajarsyah said the band’s bassist and road manager had been killed.

Images of the aftermath of the tsunami in coastal areas showed a trail of uprooted trees and debris strewn across beaches. A tangled mess of corrugated steel roofing, timber and rubble was dragged inland at Carita beach, a popular day-tripping spot on the west coast of Java.

Asep Perangkat, who fled Carita beach Saturday night, said he was with his family when the wave surged through the town, carving a path of destruction.

“Cars were dragged about 10 metres and so were containers,” Perangkat told AFP.

“Buildings on the edge of the beach were destroyed, trees and electric poles fell to the ground.

“All the residents that are safe ran to the forest,” he said.

In Lampung province, on the other side of the strait, Lutfi Al Rasyid said he fled the beach in Kalianda city in fear for his life.

“I could not start my motorbike so I left it and I ran… I just prayed and ran as far as I could,” the 23-year-old told AFP.

Initial error

Authorities say the tsunami may have been triggered by an abnormal tidal surge due to a new moon and an underwater landslide following the eruption of Anak Krakatoa, which forms a small island in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra.

“The combination caused a sudden tsunami that hit the coast,” Nugroho said, but added that Indonesia’s geological agency was working to ascertain exactly how it happened.

He added that the death toll would likely increase.

Video footage posted to social media by Nugroho showed panicked residents clutching flashlights and fleeing for higher ground.

Indonesian authorities initially claimed the wave was not a tsunami, but instead a tidal surge and urged the public not to panic.

Nugroho later apologised for the mistake on Twitter, saying because there was no earthquake it had been difficult to ascertain the cause of the incident early on.

“If there is an initial error we’re sorry,” he wrote.

The wave swamped parts of the coast around the Sunda Strait, but was most damaging in Pandeglang district, on Java’s western tip, where at least 33 people died and 491 people were injured.

Three people died further north in Serang, while seven were killed in South Lampung, on Sumatra island.

Heavy equipment was being transported to badly-hit areas to help search for victims, Nugroho said, adding evacuation posts and public kitchens were being set up for evacuees.

Abu Salim, a member of the Tagana disaster volunteer group, said he helped evacuate victims in Banten province.

“We evacuated the victims who died and were injured, we took them to health clinics … Most of them suffered from broken bones,” he said, adding he feared more were missing.

Although relatively rare, submarine volcanic eruptions can cause tsunamis due to the sudden displacement of water or slope failure, according to the International Tsunami Information Centre.

Anak Krakatoa is a small volcanic island that emerged from the ocean half a century after Krakatoa’s deadly 1883 eruption which killed more than 36,000 people.

According to Indonesia’s geological agency, Anak Krakatoa had been showing signs of heightened activity for days, spewing plumes of ash thousands of metres into the air.

The volcano erupted again just after 9:00 pm on Saturday, the agency said.

An eruption just before 4:00 pm on Saturday lasted around 13 minutes and sent plumes of ash soaring hundreds of metres into the sky.

Indonesia, one of the most disaster-prone nations on earth, straddles the so-called Pacific “Ring of Fire”, where tectonic plates collide and a large portion of the world’s volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur.

Most recently in the city of Palu on Sulawesi island a quake and tsunami in September killed thousands of people.

On December 26, 2004 a tsunami triggered by a magnitude 9.3 undersea earthquake off the coast of Sumatra in western Indonesia killed 220,000 people in countries around the Indian Ocean, including 168,000 in Indonesia.

Anak Krakatoa is one of 127 active volcanoes which run the length of the archipelago.

AFP

Indonesia Death Toll Nearly 2,000 As More Bodies Found

 

An Indonesian search and rescue team uses heavy equipment to recover bodies from the debris in Petobo in Central Sulawesi on October 8, 2018, following the September 28 earthquake and tsunami. Nearly 2000 bodies have been recovered from Palu since an earthquake and tsunami struck the Indonesian city, an official said on October 8, Photo: MOHD RASFAN / AFP

 

Nearly 2,000 bodies have been recovered from Indonesia’s disaster-ravaged Palu city, an official said on Monday, as the search for victims ended at a hotel destroyed in the powerful earthquake and tsunami.

The death toll from the twin disaster on Sulawesi island that erased whole suburbs in Palu has reached 1,944, said local military spokesman M. Thohir.

“That number is expected to rise because we have not received orders to halt the search for bodies,” Thohir, who is also a member of the government’s official Palu quake taskforce, told AFP.

Authorities have said as many as 5,000 are believed missing in two hard-hit areas since the September 28 disaster — indicating far more may have perished than the current toll.

Hopes of finding anyone alive have faded and the search for survivors amid the wreckage has turned to gather and accounting for the dead.

The disaster agency said the official search for the unaccounted would continue until October 11 at which point they would be listed as missing, presumed dead.

But rescuers called off the search Monday at Hotel Roa-Roa, which was reduced to a tangled mess of twisted rebar and smashed concrete by the force of the quake.

The hotel emerged as an early focus of efforts to extract survivors, with seven people pulled alive from its mangled ruins in the immediate aftermath.

But nobody else was saved as the days passed, and optimism faded as corpses surfaced from the wreckage.

“The SAR (search and rescue) operation at Hotel Roa-Roa has ended, because we have searched the entire hotel and have not found any more victims,” Bambang Suryo, SAR field director in Palu, told AFP.

Agus Haryono, another SAR official at the scene who confirmed the search was off, said 27 bodies were recovered from the hotel including three pulled from the debris Sunday.

Among the confirmed dead were five paragliders in Palu for a competition, including an Asian Games athlete and a South Korean, the only known foreign victim in the disaster.

Authorities believed the 80-room hotel was near capacity when the district was ravaged by a 7.5 magnitude quake and tsunami and estimated 50 to 60 people could be trapped inside.

Mass graves

Rescuers have struggled to extract bodies from the wreckage of Palu, a job made worse as mud hardens and bodies decompose in the tropical heat.

The government has said some flattened areas will be declared as mass graves and left untouched.

Balaroa resident Sarjono agreed with sealing off the obliterated neighborhood where vast numbers of bodies are believed trapped beneath the ruins.

“But only if they help us relocate elsewhere. If they don’t, where will we live?” the 50-year-old told AFP near the debris of his former home.

Gopal, whose aunt and uncle were missing in Balaroa, picked through wreckage knowing just days were left to find his loved ones.

“Even if they (search teams) stop looking, we will still try to find them ourselves,” said the 40-year-old who, like many Indonesians, goes by one name.

“When we can no longer do it ourselves, we leave it to Allah.”

Excavators and rescuers combed Balaroa on Monday, where a massive government housing complex was all but swallowed up by the disaster.

Officials say as many as 5,000 people were feared buried at Balaroa and Petobo, another decimated community.

Petobo, a cluster of villages, was subsumed when vibrations from the 7.5-magnitude quake turned the soil to quicksand — a process known as liquefaction.

Relief efforts have escalated to assist 200,000 people in desperate need. Food and clean water remain in short supply, and many are dependent entirely on handouts to survive.

Helicopters have been running supply drops to more isolated communities outside Palu, where the full extent of the damage is still not entirely clear.

The Red Cross said Monday it had treated more than 1,800 people at clinics and administered first aid to a similar number in the immediate disaster zone.

Indonesia sits along the world’s most tectonically active region, and its 260 million people are vulnerable to earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions.

AFP

 

 

Indonesia Rocked By 7.5 Magnitude Quake, Tsunami Warning Issued

This handout photograph taken and released on September 28, 2018, by Indonesia’s National Agency for Disaster Management (BNPB) shows a collapsed house following an earthquake in Donggala, Central Sulawesi.Handout / BNPB / AFP

 

Indonesia was rocked by a powerful 7.5 magnitude earthquake on Friday, just hours after a smaller jolt killed at least one person in the same part of the country.

The quake hit central Sulawesi island at a shallow depth of some 10 kilometers (six miles), the US Geological Survey said.

The country’s national disaster agency briefly issued a tsunami warning before canceling it.

There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries.

But the latest quake was a higher magnitude than those that killed hundreds on the island of Lombok earlier this year.

Friday’s tremor was centered 78 kilometers north of the city of Palu, the capital of Central Sulawesi province, but was felt in the far south of the island in its largest city Makassar.

Lisa Soba Palloan, a resident of Toraja, around 175 kilometers south of Palu, said locals felt several quakes Friday.

“The last one was quite big,” she said.

“Everyone was getting out their homes, shouting in fear.”

Indonesia is one of the most disaster-prone nations on earth.

The Southeast Asian archipelago nation lies on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, where tectonic plates collide and many of the world’s volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur.

This summer, a series of powerful quakes hit Lombok, killing over 550 people on the holiday island and neighboring Sumbawa.

Some 1,500 people were injured and about 400,000 residents were displaced after their homes were destroyed.

Indonesia has been hit by a string of other deadly quakes including a devastating 9.1 magnitude tremor that struck off the coast of Sumatra in 2004.

That quake triggered a tsunami that killed 220,000 throughout the region, including 168,000 in Indonesia.

The Boxing Day disaster was the world’s third-biggest quake since 1900 and lifted the ocean floor in some places by 15 meters.

Indonesia’s Aceh province was the hardest hit area, but the tsunami-affected coastal areas as far away as Africa.

Among the country’s other big earthquakes, a 6.3-magnitude quake in 2006 rocked a densely populated region of Java near the city of Yogyakarta, killing around 6,000 people and injuring 38,000.

More than 420,000 people were left homeless and some 157,000 houses were destroyed.

A year earlier, in 2005, a quake measuring 8.7 magnitudes struck off the coast of Sumatra, which is particularly prone to quakes, killing 900 people and injuring 6,000.

It caused widespread destruction on the western island of Nias.

AFP

 

 

Japan Reopens Beaches Hit By 2011 Nuclear, Tsunami Disaster

People walk on a beach at a seaside park in Tokyo on July 22, 2018. Japan’s severe heatwave killed at least 15 people and sent more than 12,000 to the hospital in the first two weeks of July, official figures show as the temperature neared 40 degrees C (104 F) in many cities on July 22. Kazuhiro NOGI / AFP

 

Japan has reopened three beaches in regions devastated by the 2011 tsunami and resulting Fukushima nuclear disaster after years of reconstruction efforts, officials said Monday.

Local officials in Fukushima said they hoped the opening of the Haragamaobama beach would help change perceptions of the region, which has become inextricably linked with the 2011 disaster.

One of the reopened waterfronts is Haragamaobama beach in Fukushima prefecture, about 40 kilometres north of the crippled Daiichi nuclear plant.

The beach in the city of Soma is the closest to the plant of four beaches that the prefecture has reopened.

“I’m delighted because life in Soma had always been associated with the sea before the disaster,” Hiroyuki Ito, secretary general of the Soma Tourism Association, told AFP.

Water quality inspection has not detected radioactive materials in the offshore seawater for years, and reopening the beach was only delayed while infrastructure for bathers was being built, he said.

“I used to play on the beach as a child every day… but I couldn’t let my daughter have the same experience, as she was a sixth grader” when the disaster hit the region, he said.

“Even now, if you Google search images for ‘Fukushima’, the top search result shows a lot of photos of the nuclear plant and other negative images… but our everyday lives here are returning back to normal,” he said.

“We want people in foreign countries to know that Soma is a place to visit,” he said, noting that the association uploaded the image of the opening of the beach Saturday on its Twitter account @somakankokyokai.

Two other beaches affected by the devastating tsunami in Miyagi prefecture, north of Fukushima, also reopened this weekend, Miyagi officials said.

Beaches on Japan’s northern Pacific coast have been gradually reopening after the construction of huge dikes to prevent future tsunami damage and the restoration of sand that was washed away in the 2011 disaster.

On March 11, 2011, a devastating 9.1-magnitude quake struck under the Pacific Ocean, and the resulting tsunami caused widespread damage and claimed thousands of lives.

It also sent three reactors into meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant, causing Japan’s worst postwar disaster and the most serious nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

No one died from radiation but tens of thousands of people were forced to evacuate their homes near the plant.

Many are still living in other parts of Japan, unable or unwilling to go back home.

AFP

False Tsunami Alert Sent To US Coasts

A tsunami warning test was accidentally sent as a real alert to the phones of residents along the US East and Gulf Coasts and the Caribbean on Tuesday – just weeks after a false missile alert triggered panic in Hawaii.

The National Weather Service issued what it characterized as a “routine test message” at approximately 8:30 am (1330 GMT), but the message was erroneously transmitted by at least one weather app to smartphone users as a push notification alerting them of a tsunami.

Social media posts indicated the false alert was received from the northeastern state of Maine to Texas in the south — via New York City.

Once users clicked on the alert, an accompanying text made clear that it was “a test to determine transmission times involved in the dissemination of tsunami information.”

While there were no reports of panic, the National Weather Service issued multiple clarifications to assure the public that there was no danger.

“The test message was not disseminated to the public via any communication channels operated by the National Weather Service,” the governmental scientific organization said in a statement.

“We’re currently looking into why the test message was distributed by at least one private sector company, and will provide more information as soon as we have it.”

The AccuWeather app also tweeted out a clarification, telling its users: “The National Weather Service Tsunami Warning this morning was a TEST. No Tsunami warning is in effect for the East Coast of the U.S.”

The error came less than a month after a false incoming ballistic missile alarm was sent out to the mobile phones of Hawaii residents.

The January 13 incident led to the resignation of the Pacific archipelago’s emergency management agency chief and the firing of the worker who sent out the alert.

A Federal Communications Commission report and state investigators blamed the mistake on a combination of human error, insufficient management controls and poor computer software.

AFP