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Deadly Tsunami Strikes Indonesia

At least 306 are killed and 160 are missing from Java resorts and villages after a large undersea earthquake triggers the wave.

July 18, 2006|From Times Wire Services

PANGANDARAN, Indonesia — A magnitude 7.7 earthquake spawned a 6-foot-high tsunami Monday that crashed into Indonesian beach resorts and fishing villages, killing at least 306 people and leaving more than 160 missing.

Regional agencies had issued warnings that a wave could hit the country, the worst affected by the massive tsunami of December 2004. But the alerts did not reach victims along a 110-mile stretch of Java island's southern coast because the area has no tsunami warning system.

The hardest-hit location appeared to be around the resort of Pangandaran, about 125 miles southeast of the capital, Jakarta.

Early today, desperate villagers and soldiers dug through destroyed homes and hotels looking for survivors.

Dudi Junaidi, an emergency official, said that 86 people were missing in the Pangandaran area and that a Pakistani, a Swede and a Dutch national were among the dead.

At least one Swedish tourist was being treated for injuries, and his two sons, ages 5 and 10, were missing, said Jan Janonius, a Swedish Foreign Ministry spokesman.

"When the waves came, I heard people screaming, and then I heard something like a plane about to crash nearby and I just ran," Uli Sutarli, a plantation worker who was on Pangandaran beach, said by telephone.

Witnesses said people shouted, "Tsunami! Tsunami!" and climbed trees or crowded inland mosques to pray as the wave approached.

"All the houses are destroyed along the beach," a woman who identified herself only as Teti told El Shinta radio. "Small hotels are completely destroyed and at least one restaurant was washed away."

Some roads were blocked and power and phone lines cut.

A local official, Rudi Supriatna Bahro, told a television news station, "We need tents, food and medical aid."

Java was unaffected by the 2004 tsunami, which killed about 131,000 people on Indonesia's Sumatra island and tens of thousands elsewhere.

In Monday's tsunami, there were no reports of deaths outside of Indonesia.

The afternoon quake that spawned the tsunami was centered 150 miles off the southwestern coast of Java and 30 miles beneath the ocean floor, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

Strong aftershocks followed. Buildings swayed in Jakarta, where workers streamed onto the streets.

A witness, who gave only the name Miswan, told El Shinta that he saw the water withdraw about 500 yards from the beach -- a typical occurrence in a tsunami -- half an hour before the wave hit about 4 p.m.

"I could see fish jumping around on the ocean floor," Miswan said. "Later I saw a wave like a black wall."

A man named Basril and his wife tearfully searched through mounds of debris left on the beach at Pangandaran.

"I don't mind losing any of my property," he said, "but please, God, return my son."

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