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The Financial Express

Indonesian rescuers use drones as tsunami death toll hits 429

| Updated: December 28, 2018 15:26:24


Evaly and Fianancial Express Evaly and Fianancial Express
Rescue workers use a dog to search victims among debris after a tsunami hit Sunda Strait at Rajabasa in South Lampung, Indonesia on December 25, 2018 — Reuters photo Rescue workers use a dog to search victims among debris after a tsunami hit Sunda Strait at Rajabasa in South Lampung, Indonesia on December 25, 2018 — Reuters photo

Indonesian rescuers have used drones and sniffer dogs to search for survivors along the devastated west coast of Java hit by a tsunami that killed at least 429 people.

Thick ash clouds continued to spew from Anak Krakatau, a volcanic island where a crater collapse at high tide on Saturday sent waves smashing into coastal areas on both sides of the Sunda Strait between the islands of Sumatra and Java.

At least 154 people are still missing. More than 1,400 people were injured and thousands of residents had to move to higher ground, with a high-tide warning extended to Wednesday, reports Reuters.

Rescuers on Tuesday used heavy machinery, sniffer dogs and special cameras to detect and dig bodies out of mud and wreckage along a 100km (60-mile) stretch of Java’s west coast and officials said the search area would be expanded further south, following the discovery of washed away bodies.

“There are several locations that we previously thought were not affected,” said Yusuf Latif, spokesman for the national search and rescue agency.

“But now we are reaching more remote areas...and in fact there are many victims there,” he added.

Authorities said rescuers were working around the clock to reach six villages, currently inaccessible by road and where waves from the tsunami were believed to be as high as five meters.

The vast archipelago, which sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, has suffered its worst annual death toll from disasters in more than a decade.

Earthquakes flattened parts of the island of Lombok in July and August, and a double quake-and-tsunami in September killed more than 2,000 people on a remote part of Sulawesi island.

It took only 24 minutes after the landslide for waves to hit land, and there was no early warning for those living on the coast.

The meteorological and geophysics agency, BMKG, is asking residents to stay away from the shoreline by as much as 1 kilometre, due to the risk of extreme weather on Wednesday and waves up to 2 metres high.

BMKG head Dwikorita Karnawati said on Tuesday the agency is worried about the rough weather making the volcano’s crater more fragile.

Experts warn that a second disaster remains possible.

“Since Anak Krakatau has been actively erupting for the past several months additional tsunamis cannot be excluded,” said Hermann Fritz, from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Rescue efforts were hampered by heavy rainfall and low visibility. Military and volunteer teams used drones to assess the extent of the damage along the coast.

Food, water, blankets, and medical aid are trickling into remote areas via inland roads choked with traffic.

Thousands of people are staying in tents and temporary shelters like mosques or schools, with dozens sleeping on the floor or in crowded public facilities.

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