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Death toll from Indonesia tsunami rises to 281: officials

An aerial photo shows damaged buildings in Carita on December 23, 2018, after the area was hit by a tsunami on December 22 following an eruption of the Anak Krakatoa volcano. (AFP)
Around 280 people were killed and more than 1,000 injured by high waves that struck coastal areas around Indonesia's Sunda Strait, between the islands of Sumatra and Java, last Saturday night.

As of Monday morning, the death toll reached 281, up from 222 the night before, while 1,016 people were injured and 57 were missing, according to Indonesia's disaster agency.

The tsunami damaged or destroyed at least 611 homes, 69 hotels and villas, 60 small shops and 420 boats, saidDSutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB). 

Rescue teams used diggers and other heavy equipment to haul debris from the stricken area around the Sunda Strait on Monday, as thousands were evacuated from the affected region.

“The military and police are searching the ruins to see if we can find more victims,” said Mr Dody Ruswandi, a senior official at the disaster agency, adding that the rescue effort was likely to last a week.

The rainy season could hamper rescue efforts.

“It’s already raining heavily and the winds are strong so we’ve only got a short timeframe to evacuate people and clean up,” said Indonesia’s public works minister Basuki Hadimuljono.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo arrived in Banten at around 9am on Monday and headed straight to the worst-hit Pandeglang province.

After arriving in Pandeglang in a military helicopter, he visited affected residents at makeshift health clinics.

Less than three months after a quake-tsunami killed thousands of people around the city of Palu on Sulawesi island, waves as high as 3m hit the coast of southern Sumatra and the western tip of Java at around 9.30pm last Saturday. 

“The number of victims and damage will continue to rise,” said Sutopo.

Many of those killed were tourists, as the western coast of Banten is a popular tourist destination.

"According to preliminary data, there are no foreign casualties, only Indonesians," said Dr Suto.

A press statement issued by Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Sunday said that there were no reports of Singaporeans affected by the tsunami.

Singapore Red Cross is pledging $50,000 in humanitarian aid to support affected communities. The contribution will support disaster recovery efforts and fund the purchase and distribution of relief items - including water filtration systems, blankets, sleeping mats and household kits, said the agency in a press statement.  

The coastal areas most severely affected by the tsunami were Pandeglang regency, Serang, and South Lampung. In Pandeglang regency, most casualties were reported at the Mutiara Carita Cottage Hotel, the Tanjung Lesung Hotel and Sambolo village.