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Published: Monday, 7/17/2006

Tsunami kills at least 86 in Indonesia


JAKARTA, Indonesia An earthquake sent a 6-foot-high tsunami crashing into beach resorts on Java island today, killing at least 86 people, leaving scores missing and sending thousands fleeing to higher ground, officials, witnesses and media reports said.

Regional bulletins that the 7.7-magnitude undersea earthquake was strong enough to send a killer wave steaming toward the country worst hit by the 2004 Asian tsunami did not reach the victims, because Indonesia s main island has no 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, an idyllic beach resort popular with tourists. 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 82 people were killed, most in Pangandaran and nearby Cilacap. El-Shinta radio reported four other deaths.

We are still evacuating areas and cross-checking data, Red Cross official Arifin Muhadi told The Associated Press. He said 77 people 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 el-Shinta 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, Miswan said. Later I saw a wave like a black wall.

Local media reports said the wave came as far 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 el-Shinta radio. Small hotels are destroyed and at least one restaurant was washed away.

Santi, a tourist at Pangandaran, told The Associated Press said she saw about 20 bodies at a health clinic. Officials at the clinic could not immediately be reached for comment.

Indonesia has installed a warning system across much of Sumatra island but not on Java.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com.

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