- The Washington Times - Monday, July 17, 2006

CIAMIS, Indonesia — An earthquake sent a tsunami crashing into beach resorts on Java island yesterday, killing more than 170 people, leaving scores missing and sending thousands fleeing in an area spared by the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, officials, witnesses and media reports said.

Regional bulletins that the 7.7-magnitude undersea earthquake was strong enough to create a killer wave did not reach the victims, because Indonesia’s main island has no tsunami warning system.

Thousands fled to higher ground along a 110-mile stretch of the densely populated island’s southern coast. The hardest-hit area appeared to be Pangandaran, a popular beach resort. Witnesses there said people shouted “tsunami, tsunami” and climbed trees or crowded into inland mosques as the wave approached.

The Indonesian Red Cross, police and district officials said at least 170 persons were killed, most in Pangandaran and nearby Cilacap. Elshinta radio reported four other deaths.

“We are still evacuating areas and cross-checking data,” Red Cross official Arifin Muhadi said. He said 77 persons were missing.

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

A witness told Elshinta radio that he saw the ocean withdraw 1,500 feet from the beach a half-hour before the powerful wave smashed ashore, a typical phenomenon before a tsunami.

“I could see fish jumping around on the ocean floor,” said Miswan, who like many Indonesians uses only one name. “Later, I saw a wave like a black wall.”

Local media reports said the wave came as far as 900 feet inland in some places. Buildings sit close to the beach in Pangandaran.

Roads were blocked and power cut to much of the area. Damage and casualties were reported at several spots along the 110 miles of beach affected, officials and media reports said.

“All the houses are destroyed along the beach,” one woman, Teti, told Elshinta radio. “Small hotels are destroyed, and at least one restaurant was washed away.”

Indonesia has installed a warning system across much of Sumatra island but not on Java. It has been planning to extend it there by next year.

Java was hit seven weeks ago by a 6.3-magnitude earthquake that killed more than 5,800 people, but the island was spared by the 2004 tsunami that killed 216,000 people, nearly half of them in Indonesia’s Aceh province.

The May earthquake did not affect the part of the island hit by yesterday’s tsunami, which was spawned by a quake that struck deep beneath the Indian Ocean 150 miles southwest of Java’s western coast.

Indonesia is on the so-called Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific basin.

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