SUNDAY TIMES WEB DESK: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.
The powerful tsunami struck without any warning on Saturday night, sweeping over popular beaches of southern Sumatra and the western tip of Java and inundating tourist hotels and coastal settlements.
More than 1,000 people were injured and the death toll “will continue to rise”, said disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.
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.
“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.
In devastated Sukarame village, Sunarti waded through knee-deep water as she searched for belongings outside her destroyed house — and waited for aid to arrive.
Indonesian president Joko Widodo visited the area Monday.
It was the third major natural disaster to strike Indonesia in the space of six months, following a series of powerful earthquakes on the island of Lombok in July and August and a quake-tsunami in September that killed around 2,200 people in Palu on Sulawesi island, with thousands more missing and presumed dead.
The vast archipelago nation is one of the most disaster-prone nations on Earth due to its position straddling the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, where tectonic plates collide.