Da The Indian Express del 18/07/2006
Originale su http://www.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=71223

Java tsunami toll 306, hunt on for more

Pangandaran, Indonesia: Tearful parents searched on Tuesday for missing children and soldiers dug through the debris of homes flattened by the second tsunami to hit Indonesia in as many years. At least 306 people were killed, officials and media reports said, with at least 160 others missing.

Bodies covered in white sheets piled up at makeshift morgues with the corpse of at least one woman lying on a beach long popular with local and foreign tourists.

“I don't mind losing any of my property, but please God return my son,'' said Basril, a villager, as he and his wife searched though mounds of debris piled up at Pangandaran resort on Java island's southern coast.

The area hit by Monday's disaster was spared by the devastating 2004 Asian tsunami, and many residents said they did not even feel the 7.7-magnitude undersea quake that unleashed the two-meter (two-yard) - high wall of water.

But some recognized the danger, when they saw the sea recede and fled to higher ground, screaming “Tsunami! Tsunami!'' A black wave shot to shore a half hour later, witnesses said, sending boats, cars and motorbikes crashing into resorts and fishing villages.

The death toll rose to at least 262, officials and media reports said, with the numbers expected to grow.

“We are still finding many bodies, many are stuck in the ruins of the houses,'' said local police chief Syamsuddin Janieb, who said at least 172 people were killed and 85 others were missing in the Panganderan area alone.

A Pakistani national, a Swedish national and a Dutch national were among the dead, he said, but did not give their genders.

At least 23,000 people fled their homes, either because they were destroyed or in fear of another tsunami, so accounting for the 170 missing could take time, other officials said Tuesday.

Survivors, meanwhile, recounted their tales of horror.

“We saw a big wall of black water. I ran with my son in my arms and when I looked back, the waves were at our house, they destroyed our house,'' said Ita Anita, who was on the beach with her 11-month-old child and other relatives. “The water knocked me down, my son slipped out of my hands and was taken by the water.''

Pedi Mulyadi, a 43-year-old food vendor, said he was waiting on the beach for customers when the wave struck, killing his wife, Ratini, 33. The pair were clinging to one another when they were swallowed by the torrent of water and pulled 30 meters (yards) inland, he said.

“Then we were hit, I think by a piece of wood,'' Mulyadi said. “When the water finally pulled away, she was dead. Oh my God, my wife is gone, just like that.''

Indonesia was hardest hit by a 2004 tsunami that killed at least 216,000 people in a dozen nations along the Indian Ocean rim, more than a half of them on Sumatra island's Aceh province.

Though the country started to install an early warning system after that disaster, it is still in the early stages, covering only Sumatra. The government had been planning to extend the warning system to Java by 2007.

Monday's quake struck at 3:24 p.m. around 240 kilometres beneath the ocean floor, causing tall buildings to sway hundreds of kilometres away in the capital, Jakarta. The region has been rattled by a series of strong aftershocks.

No other country reported casualties or damage from Monday's tsunami.


POPULAR TOURIST SPOT

Pangandaran, which bore the brunt of the tsunami, is a popular tourist spot with many small hotels on the beach with a nature reserve nearby.

Anxious survivors lifted sheets covering dozens of bodies lining a hospital floor as they searched for relatives missing after the waves battered their homes, leaving the area strewn with bamboo poles, fallen trees and collapsed straw huts.

TV footage showed a man flinging himself down onto the corpse of a small child, her body streaked with mud, alongside lines of bodies under plastic sheets in a makeshift morgue.

A Belgian tourist named Ian said that his warning came when a waitress at a beachside bar ran by him screaming.

"I saw this big cloud of dark sea water coming up to me. So I grabbed the bag and started running ... and then the water grabbed me and pulled me under and I was thinking this is the end, I'm going down," he said.

But he grabbed onto a cooler and rode the wave into a nearby hotel.

Many people returned to salvage belongings such as boat engines and clothes from the wreckage of their homes after the tsunami destroyed fishing boats and damaged cafes, motels and restaurants up to 500 metres from the coastline.

The US-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center rated the quake magnitude at 7.2. It said the quake would not trigger "a destructive widespread tsunami threat", but could cause some local tsunamis.

Indonesian authorities at first put the quake's magnitude at 5.5, unlikely to cause a tsunami given the epicentre's distance from shore and depth under the sea. They later upgraded the figure to 6.8.

A much touted international warning system involving sophisticated detection buoys, which officials had hoped could be in place around the Indian Ocean by this time, has stalled.

Asked how many tsunami buoys Indonesia has in operation since it launched the warning system plan last year, a government official assigned to the project said: "none".

The epicentre of Tuesday's undersea quake was about 180 kilometres from the hardest hit spot on Java's southern coast.

Indonesia's 17,000 islands sprawl along a belt of intense volcanic and seismic activity, part of what is called the "Pacific Ring of Fire".

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