World

Indonesia tsunami death toll climbs to over 370 as doctors, rescuers scramble to find survivors

Indonesia's disaster agency says the death toll from the weekend tsunami has climbed to 373 as hundreds of military personnel and volunteers comb debris-strewn beaches Monday looking for survivors.

Undersea landslide caused by volcano believed to have triggered tsunami

Raw footage of areas hit by tsunami along Carita Beach. 1:22

Indonesia's disaster agency says the death toll from the weekend tsunami has climbed to 373 as hundreds of military personnel and volunteers comb debris-strewn beaches Monday looking for survivors.

Disaster agency spokesperson Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said Monday that at least 1,459 were injured in the disaster and the death toll was certain to rise further, with 128 people still missing from the affected areas along the coastlines of western Java and southern Sumatra islands.

Where victims were found, yellow, orange and black body bags were laid out, and weeping relatives identified the dead. 

The waves that swept locals and tourists into the sea along the Sunda Strait followed an eruption and apparent landslide on Anak Krakatau, or "Child of Krakatoa," one of the world's most infamous volcanic islands. 

Hotels and hundreds of homes were heavily damaged by the waves. Broken chunks of concrete and splintered sticks of wood littered hard-hit coastal areas, turning popular beach areas into near ghost towns. Debris from thatch-bamboo shacks was strewn along the coast.

A man stands in front of his destroyed house Monday after it was hit by a tsunami in Pandeglang, Banten province, Indonesia. (Jorge Silva/Reuters)

The Indonesian Medical Association of the worst-affected Banten region said that it sent doctors, medical supplies and equipment, and that many of the injured were in need of orthopedic and neurological surgery. It said most victims were domestic tourists who were visiting beaches during the long weekend ahead of Christmas. 

2nd deadly tsunami this year

It was the second deadly tsunami to hit seismically active Indonesia this year. A powerful earthquake triggered a tsunami that hit Sulawesi island in September, giving residents a brief warning before the waves struck.

On Saturday night, however, the ground did not shake to alert people before the waves ripped buildings from their foundations and swept terrified concertgoers celebrating on a resort beach into the sea.

A damaged building at the Mutiara Carita Cottages in Carita. (Sonny Tumbelaka/AFP/Getty Images)

"I heard people shouting to run away, and I saw the water had gone up to the mainland and the hotel had been flooded by water," said witness Feri Ardian. "About 200 people were dragged away by the waves."

Dramatic video posted on social media showed the Indonesian pop band Seventeen performing under a tent on Tanjung Lesung beach at a concert for employees of a state-owned electricity company. A wave smashed through the makeshift stage, tossing the band and its equipment into the audience.

"The tide rose to the surface and dragged all the people on site," the band said in a statement. "Unfortunately, when the current receded, our members were unable to save themselves while some did not find a place to hold on."

Seventeen's bass player, guitarist, drummer, road manager and technician were all killed. The lead singer, Riefian Fajarsyah, survived, but his wife, who was also a backup singer, remained missing. 

WATCH: Scenes of devastation in the aftermath of the tsunami:

See the devastation in the aftermath of Saturday's deadly tsunami in Indonesia. 0:50

Canada offers to assist

Indonesian President Joko (Jokowi) Widodo expressed his sympathy and ordered government agencies to respond quickly to the disaster.

"My deep condolences to the victims in Banten and Lumpung provinces," he said. "Hopefully, those who are left have patience."

The president told journalists after arriving by helicopter in the disaster region that he has ordered the Social Ministry to give compensation to the families of the dead as quickly as possible. He praised the army and police, along with local government officials, for their work in evacuating shorefront areas, which are still considered a danger zone. 

Indonesia's President Joko Widodo visits the scene of devastation at the Mutiara Carita Cottages in Carita in Banten province two days after the tsunami. (Sonny Tumbelaka/AFP/Getty Images)

A spokesperson for Global Affairs said in a statement that consular officials are ready to assist Canadians, if needed.

"Canada is deeply saddened by the tragedy caused by the Sunda Strait tsunami in Indonesia. We offer our sincerest condolences to the families and loved ones of those killed and wish a swift recovery to those injured. We are not aware of any Canadians who have been affected," the statement read.

In addition, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered his condolences in a tweet on Sunday and reiterated Canada's offer to assist.

Kathy Mueller of the Canadian Red Cross told CBC News Network that aid workers are trying to reach some areas cut off because of debris. 

"They are sending in five mobile health clinics. So once the roads are cleared a little bit more, these mobile health clinics can get into these remote areas and provide treatment right on the ground," she said from Sulawesi.

The head of Indonesia's Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency, Dwikorita Karnawati, said Monday the tsunami was caused by Krakatau's volcanic activity, so could not have been picked up by her agency's sensors, which monitor the conventional tectonic earthquakes responsible for more than 90 per cent of Indonesia's tsunamis.
 
With Anak Krakatau still erupting, she warned people to avoid activities around coastal areas in the coming days.

Scientists said the tsunami could have been caused by landslides — either above ground or under water — on the steep slope of the erupting Anak Krakatau volcano. The scientists also cited tidal waves caused by the full moon.

The 305-metre-high Anak Krakatau lies on an island in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra islands, linking the Indian Ocean and the Java Sea. It has been erupting since June and did so again about 24 minutes before the tsunami, the geophysics agency said.

The Anak Krakatau volcano is seen during an eruption at Sunda Strait in South Lampung, Indonesia, on Sunday. (Nurul Hidayat/Antara Foto via Reuters)

Gegar Prasetya, co-founder of the Tsunami Research Center Indonesia, said Saturday's tsunami was likely caused by a flank collapse — when a big section of a volcano's slope gives way. It's possible for an eruption to trigger a landslide above ground or beneath the ocean, both capable of producing waves, he said.

"Actually, the tsunami was not really big, only one metre," said Prasetya, who has studied Krakatoa. "The problem is people always tend to build everything close to the shoreline."

Indonesia, a vast archipelago of more than 17,000 islands and home to 260 million people, lies along the "Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin. Roads and infrastructure are poor in many areas, making access difficult in the best of conditions.

With files from CBC News