IN PICTURES |Tsunami toll tops 400

Indonesia tsunami death toll may hit thousands

Indonesian search and rescue teams plucked stranded residents from remote islands and pushed into isolated communities desperate for aid on Wednesday in the aftermath of a volcano-triggered tsunami that killed more than 400 people.

But torrential rains hampered the effort and heaped more misery on the region, as officials warned that another killer wave could hit the stricken area.

The disaster agency cautioned residents to stay clear of the coast, as fresh activity at the Anak Krakatoa volcano, which sits in the middle of the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra islands, threatened to spark another tsunami.

A section of the crater – which emerged at the site of the legendary Krakatoa volcano, whose massive 1883 eruption killed at least 36,000 people – collapsed after an eruption and slid into the ocean, triggering Saturday night’s killer wave.

It struck without warning, washing over popular beaches and inundating tourist hotels and coastal communities, leaving a trail of death and destruction in its wake.

The disaster agency slightly raised the death toll on Wednesday to 430, with 1,495 people injured and 159 missing.

Nearly 22,000 people have been evacuated and are living in shelters.

“There’s a chance the number of fatalities will rise,” agency spokesperson Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told a press briefing.

Medical workers have warned that clean water and medicine supplies were running low – stoking fears of a public health crisis – as thousands of displaced survivors cram shelters and hospitals.

Many have been left homeless, and fear going back to their communities.

“I’m here because people said there could another tsunami,” Etin Supriatin said from an evacuation centre in shattered Labuan.

The disaster agency dispatched helicopters to drop supplies into hard-to-reach communities, while hundreds of residents on tiny islands in the Sunda Strait were airlifted or taken by boat to shelters.

“We tried to stay because it’s our island, but after a while we got scared,” Sariyah, a 45-yearold resident of tiny Sebesi island, who evacuated to the mainland on a boat, said.

“My house has been destroyed so there’s no more reason to stay.”

Sniffer dogs are being used to find those still missing as grief-stricken relatives lined up at identification centres.

But hopes of finding any survivors beneath the rubble have dwindled.

Tubagus Cecep, 63, waited nervously at the main identification centre to see if a body was that of his missing son.

“I’m scared my son is dead, but maybe he could have been swept away somewhere and is still alive,” he said.

At the Tanjung Lesung resort, vehicles had been thrown against buildings, concrete walls cracked into small pieces and trees uprooted. A wooden sign reading “Good Times” lay on the ground.

The tsunami struck the resort as more than 200 workers from the state electricity company were watching pop band Seventeen perform.

The four-member group was hurled from the stage as the water slammed into the audience – only the band’s lead vocalist survived.

The tsunami was Indonesia’s third major natural disaster in six months, following powerful earthquakes on Lombok in July and August and a quake-tsunami in September that killed 2,200 people in Palu on Sulawesi island. –