Authorities warned residents and tourists in coastal areas around the Sunda Strait to stay away from beaches and a high-tide warning remained in place until Dec. 25 as officials evaluate the risks and try to determine the exact cause of the disaster.
“Those who have evacuated, please do not return yet,” said Rahmat Triyono, an official at the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG).
President Joko Widodo, who is running for re-election in April, told reporters he had “ordered all relevant government agencies to immediately take emergency response measures, find victims and care for the injured”.
Vice President Jusuf Kalla warned that the death toll would “likely increase”.
Heavy equipment is being moved in to help with rescue efforts as well as water and sanitation equipment. The military said it was deploying troops to distribute aid and blankets, as well as sending in medics.
The western coast of Banten province in Java, Indonesia’s most populated island, was the worst-hit area, Nugroho told reporters, adding that at least 35 people were reported dead in Lampung in southern Sumatra.
With the exact cause of the disaster still unknown, authorities are wary of the risk of a recurrence. Public works minister Basuki Hadimuljono said “emergency operations would be continuously carried out, but would stop at the stop at the first sign of possible high tides”.
Television footage showed how the tsunami washed away an outdoor stage where a local rock band was performing for hundreds of guests at an end-of-year party for state utility company PLN.
Four of the musicians from the band, Seventeen, were killed, along with 29 PLN employees and relatives.