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Hunt for survivors as Indonesian tsunami death toll climbs to 373

By AFP


Dozens of filled body bags were hauled away from buildings flattened by Indonesia’s volcano-triggered tsunami Monday, as the death toll climbed to 373 and search teams pushed on with the grim hunt for corpses.

Rescue teams used their bare hands, diggers and other heavy equipment to haul debris from the stricken area around the Sunda Strait, as thousands were evacuated to higher ground.

Experts warned that more deadly waves could slam the devastated region after Saturday night’s disaster, as questions swirled over why the killer wave caught a disaster-prone country’s monitors completely off guard.

The powerful tsunami swept over popular beaches on southern Sumatra and western Java and inundated tourist hotels and coastal settlements.

Some 1,459 people were injured with another 128 missing, disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said, giving an updated toll late Monday.

“The lack of a tsunami early warning system caused a lot of victims because people did not have the time to evacuate,” he said.

Hundreds of buildings were destroyed by the wave that left a tangled mess of corrugated steel roofing, timber and rubble at Carita beach, a popular spot for day-trippers on the west coast of Java.

Beachside cottages at one resort were flattened while the dining room’s mud-caked floor was strewn with smashed chairs and tables, utensils and spilled cups of ice cream.

In the lobby, a Christmas tree remained standing, surrounded by fallen holiday ornaments and toppled-over flower pots.

“The military and police are searching the ruins to see if we can find more victims,” said Dody Ruswandi, a senior official at the disaster agency, adding that the rescue effort was likely to last a week.

– ‘No time to evacuate’ –

Indonesia’s disaster agency initially said there was “no tsunami threat” even as the wave crashed ashore.

It was later forced to issue a correction and an apology as it pointed to the area’s lack of early warning systems.