Aerial shot of flooded residential areas in wake of tsunami in Labuan, Indonesia | Reuters
The Indonesian authorities are working to upgrade the warning system after a deadly tsunami caught the locals unprepared on Saturday.
The tsunami came without warning. Nobody had a clue that a 20-meter-high wave was heading toward the town of Banten in West Java.
The main cause was the eruption of Anak Krakatau, a volcano that emerged just less than 100 years ago. Locals say that as rumblings and eruptions are common occurrences,the recent eruption did not strike them as suspicious.
The last eruption of Krakatau was at exactly the same spot in 1883 — 135 years ago. It generated big waves, which killed hundreds of thousands of people.
This time, the tsunami hit at 21:27 Jakarta time on Saturday, after the eruption of the Anak Krakatau volcano triggered underwater landslides, leading to a sudden rise of the sea level.
“We are still trying to figure out what caused this new phenomenon. The activity of Krakatau itself didn’t cause the landslide. We believe it is due to many factors. At the time the landslide took place, there were also heavy rain and volcanic tremors. All of those combined resulted in this powerful underwater landslide that caused the tsunami,” said Ratdomo Purbo, a geology expert from the Indonesian Energy Ministry.
This new phenomenon is entirely different to the Indian Ocean tsunami that washed over Banda Aceh and many other Asian countries in 2004. Those waves were triggered by a magnitude-9 earthquake.
Now, experts are trying to understand what happened beneath the sea surface as that volcano was erupting on Saturday. This might take time. The government would have to send teams into the area frequently to do a proper survey. But right now, it is still too dangerous because another eruption could trigger a fresh tsunami.
Authorities have released yet another warning telling residents around the area to be cautious of waves that could reach up to 4 meters high.
“Our equipment at the earthquake and tsunami center needs to be updated and more advanced. We hope that in the future we can give out warnings much faster, not just for tsunamis caused by tectonic movements but volcanic tremors too,” said Joko Siswanto, regional head of the Indonesian meteorology, climatology and geophysics agency (BMKG) Banten.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo is now prioritizing warning centers to have high-quality equipment that can help to detect activities underwater to prepare themselves in case a tragedy of this scale happens again in the future.
The tsunami has killed at least 430 people as of Wednesday, leaving 1,495 injured and 159 others missing.
It has also displaced 21,991 residents and damaged nearly 1,000 houses in the affected areas. — Reuters