Grim atmosphere at once sunny beaches

A rescue worker and a search-and-rescue dog looking for victims trapped under the rubble at a resort in Tanjung Lesung, Banten province, yesterday. Members of an Indonesian search and rescue team carrying a body bag taken from the Villa Stephanie res
Debris from wrecked buildings in Sukarame village, in Banten province. The tsunami caught people by surprise, destroying buildings and carrying away vehicles and people as it swept inland. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG
Residents from the coast of Bandar Lampung, in Lampung province, resting yesterday at a government building after being evacuated.
Residents from the coast of Bandar Lampung, in Lampung province, resting yesterday at a government building after being evacuated.PHOTO: REUTERS
A rescue worker and a search-and-rescue dog looking for victims trapped under the rubble at a resort in Tanjung Lesung, Banten province, yesterday. Members of an Indonesian search and rescue team carrying a body bag taken from the Villa Stephanie res
A rescue worker and a search-andrescue dog looking for victims trapped under the rubble at a resort in Tanjung Lesung, Banten province, yesterday. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
A rescue worker and a search-and-rescue dog looking for victims trapped under the rubble at a resort in Tanjung Lesung, Banten province, yesterday. Members of an Indonesian search and rescue team carrying a body bag taken from the Villa Stephanie res
Members of an Indonesian search and rescue team carrying a body bag taken from the Villa Stephanie resort in Carita, in Banten province, yesterday. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Rubble and debris litter holiday towns as rescuers work to find those still trapped or missing

SERANG (Indonesia) • The tsunami has brought a grim atmosphere to the Anyer coast in Serang, capital of Indonesia's Banten province, with rubble from devastated houses and buildings scattered along the once popular beaches.

Sirens from ambulances and vehicles carrying police, military personnel and volunteers sounded from time to time in an area that was a popular weekend getaway.

Most hotels, resorts, restaurants and convenience stores in the city were closed indefinitely after the disaster.

At a popular beach in Cinangka village in Anyer, known for its white sands and coconut trees, all construction made of bamboo was flattened completely by the tsunami waves.

Recalling the disastrous moment, local restaurant owner Eki Prasetya said the weather before the tsunami was a bit strange.

"Last night was so peaceful, no rain and no wind as well," he told Xinhua on Sunday. "It was just different from the days before as rain always fell down... with strong wind."

His restaurant on the beach and his house nearby were destroyed by the tsunami.

EVERYTHING GONE IN SECONDS

The water that hit the beach was quite strong. I almost fell as I ran with my wife and my son... I saw everything that I built to earn my living gone in seconds. I don't have anything now.

MR EKI PRASETYA, local restaurant owner.

He said the sea receded from the beach some 20 minutes before the tsunami hit. He had no idea it was a sign of an incoming tsunami as he did not feel any earthquake or other abnormality.

"But the volcano has been very active lately. We heard thunderous sounds from the direction of the volcano quite often. But it was okay as it did not harm us here," Mr Eki said.

When the tsunami hit the shore, the loud sounds from the sea made him curious as they were not from the volcano.

"I was in my house with my wife and my son when I suddenly realised water had already submerged the floor. I held my son and yanked my wife out of the house quickly," said Mr Eki, 24, who has a toddler.

He said he watched the tsunami easily topple his restaurant and house, both made from bamboo.

"The water that hit the beach was quite strong. I almost fell as I ran with my wife and my son.

 
 
 

"I saw everything that I built to earn my living gone in seconds. I don't have anything now," Mr Eki said, while collecting any valuable items among the debris left by the huge waves.

The meteorology and geophysics agency has banned activities in coastal areas facing the Sunda Strait.

Meanwhile, heavy machinery has been deployed in the search and rescue operation.

In Lampung Selatan district, the search for those still missing is under way, said Mr Ketut Sukerta, head of the disaster management agency in the district.

"Over 100 buildings collapsed. We are now attempting to rescue the people trapped under the rubble and to find those swept away by the waves," he told Xinhua by phone from Lampung Selatan district.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 25, 2018, with the headline 'Grim atmosphere at once sunny beaches'. Print Edition | Subscribe