Indonesian Tsunami Kills Hundreds as No Warnings Given

A tsunami struck the Indonesian island of Java off the Pangandaran beach resort, following a 7.7 magnitude undersea earthquake on 17 July. As of 19 July, 520 people were confirmed dead and 275 missing. More than 50,000 people have been displaced.

There was no reported local warning of the disaster. Indonesia’s own warning system—under the new Indian Ocean system—is still incomplete. Following the December 2004 tsunami, priority attention was given to Aceh on Sumatra island, but Java—Indonesia’s most densely populated island—will not have coverage until 2007 the earliest.

The government acknowledged receiving warnings from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center and Japan’s meteorological agency about the impending tsunami, between 20 and 45 minutes before the waves struck, according to different press reports. But it did not pass them on to threatened areas—apparently because authorities assumed people had already fled to safety.

This is the second large disaster to strike Java in 2006, following a 27 May magnitude 6.3 earthquake that hit near the city of Yogyakarta. It killed more than 5,800 people, damaged 360,000 houses, made 1.5 million people homeless, and caused $3 billion worth of damage.

“Indonesia Death Toll Passes 500,” BBC News Online, 19 July 2006.
“Java Tsunami Death Toll Increases,” BBC News Online, 18 July 2006.
John Aglionby, “Officials Failed to Pass on Tsunami Warning,” Guardian, 18 July 2006.
Peter Gelling, “Earthquake Reconstruction Will Cost $3 Billion, Indonesia Says,” New York Times, 14 June 2006.