I felt I was about to die: Indonesian band member recalls scene after tsunami struck

Lead vocalist Riefian "Ifan" Fajarsyah posted a video on Instagram looking distraught as he wiped away tears and asked for prayers for his wife, guitarist and drummer, who were all missing.
Lead vocalist Riefian "Ifan" Fajarsyah posted a video on Instagram looking distraught as he wiped away tears and asked for prayers for his wife, guitarist and drummer, who were all missing.PHOTOS: TWITTER/SUKMAHAPSARI, INSTAGRAM/IFANSEVENTEEN

JAKARTA (WASHINGTON POST, NYTIMES, REUTERS) - Rock band Seventeen was playing its second song of a set when a wave burst through the backdrop behind the stage, crashed into the drummer, his drum set and the other musicians, and swept the temporary stage into the audience.

A video posted on YouTube showed the tsunami slamming into the stage erected on Tanjung Lesung Beach, on the Java coast, where the band was performing at a gathering for families of employees of Perusahaan Listrik Negara, the state electricity company.

Company officials said that 14 people attending the event had died and 89 were missing.

In a telephone interview with Indonesia's TVOne on Sunday (Dec 23), lead vocalist Riefian "Ifan" Fajarsyah said they were two songs into their set when the wave struck.

One moment, Mr Fajarsyah was singing on a brightly lit stage; the next moment, the tsunami wave had swept him out to sea, he said.

It was difficult to see in the dark, he told the TV station, but he could hear cries around him and make out flailing hands as people tried to stay above water.

As the noises around him faded, he said, he thought that the concertgoers around him had drowned and that he may be next.

"I didn't think I could make (it) to the beach line," Mr Fajarsyah said. "I feel I am really in the sea and about to die."

He tried fruitlessly to swim against the rushing water, but salvation came in the form of a floating box.

He latched on to it and used it to swim to a tree.

 

Half an hour later, with the water receding, he climbed down from the tree, covered in scratches.

He had one singular thought: "I have to find my band family as well as my wife."

Earlier on Sunday, Mr Fajarsyah posted a video on Instagram looking distraught as he wiped away tears and asked for prayers for his wife - actress Dylan Sahara - guitarist Herman Sikumbang and drummer Windu Andi Darmawan, who were all missing.

He said that the band had already lost their bassist Muhammad Awal Purbani and their manager Oki Wijaya.

"We lost our bassist Bani and manager Oki. Andi, Herman and (crew member) Ujang still not found, I ask for your prayers for my wife, who is also missing," he said on his Instagram account.

It was later reported that guitarist Herman Sikumbang and crew member Ujang were among those who died.

More than 220 people have been  killed and over 800 others were injured after the tsunami struck coastal areas around Indonesia's Sunda Strait, between the islands of Sumatra and Java. Hundreds of buildings were damaged.