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Tsunami alert in Jakarta

On July 17, a 7.7-magnitude quake triggered a tsunami that killed at least 450 people, wounded 717 and left 110 people missing, according to figures from the Health Ministry. Indonesia's 17,000 islands sprawl along a belt of intense volcanic and seismic activity, part of what is called the " The temblor, which swayed buildings in the capital Jakarta, is the second major quake in three days. The epicenter of the earthquake was 190 km away from the capitol. The skyscrapers were swinging in Jakarta and people were running out of the buildings frightened. An aftershock in Indonesia's tsunami-ravaged region sent hundreds scrambling for high ground on Wednesday as the toll from Monday's disaster climbed to 550. After the Monday quake, a tsunami smashed into a 300-km (185 mile) stretch of coast along southern Java. A light aftershock that shook Pangandaran beach sent some people running, while others headed inland on motorcycles and cars as rumors circulated of a fresh tsunami.

Indonesian media questioned why there was no warning ahead of Monday's killer waves despite regional efforts to set up early alert systems after the massive Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004. The Jakarta Post said in an editorial the disaster agency had done "nothing of note to increase people's preparedness for disasters". Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla told reporters the government would build an early warning system in Java and other areas in Indonesia in three years. Red Cross official Mehmet Selamat said "There are many fishermen missing." Search and rescue official Hadi Tugiman said he expected the search effort to continue until at least the weekend. Government officials said as many as 54,000 people were displaced from wrecked fishing villages, farms and beach resorts, adding to the rehabilitation headache for authorities after an earthquake that killed more than 5,700 people in central Java less than two months earlier. Trucks started to arrive with aid for the thousands who lost their homes or who, fearing further tsunamis, had fled to hills above the coast. Officials said four foreigners, including a Dutch national, a Swede, a Japanese and a Belgian, were known killed in the quake.

"I saw a house coming toward me, but I couldn't run. It stopped 20 meters from me," Anne-Marie Kingmans, a Dutch tourist who survived, told Reuters. "We heard no warning. People just came running," she said, adding that the waves washed a boat into the lobby of her hotel. Food and water appeared to be in ample supply. Protective vaccinations are a high priority and local health workers have been swift in getting them underway, a World Health Organization official said, adding the global body has also been training them on how to deal with traumatized patients. Soft-drink and snack seller Mukasih, 25, said the tsunami destroyed both her kiosk and her home. Mukasih suffered cuts and lacerations as the waves flung her and one of her children against a wall. She later found her husband and other child sheltering in a mosque. Asked what her plans were, she said: "I don't know. I'm still thinking, but I don't want a shop on the beach again." No tsunami warning system was set up for the southern coast of Java after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that left 230,000 killed or missing, including 170,000 in Indonesia. Some officials considered the area, about 270 km (170 miles) southeast of Jakarta, less likely to be hit by a tsunami than others in Indonesia. "It turned out that our prediction was wrong," the Jakarta Post quoted Surono, a senior official of the country's earthquake agency, as saying. "Now, we believe that there are no tsunami-free areas along the southern coast of Java."

A tsunami warning system covering the Indian Ocean region is now "up and running", Unesco has said on 28 June. On the contrary: “I haven't received any tsunami warning, but I strongly urge people to be on alert,” Jakarta earthquake centre official Fauzi said in a phone interview, referring to Javanese resort areas Ujung Kulon, Pelabuhan Ratu, Anyer and Carita as places at risk. The earthquake may not cause a tsunami because of its magnitude, even though tremors greater than 6 can cause serious damage in populated places. “It's way too small to cause a tsunami,” Robert Cessaro, a geophysicist at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Ewa Beach, Hawaii, said in a telephone interview. He said the quake was rated at a magnitude of 6.1. ``Unless it's something right on the coast that might cause a landslide.'' There were no immediate reports of damage. The most destructive tsunami in the Sunda Straits occurred on August 26, 1883, when Krakatoa volcano erupted. The eruption was heard 4,600 kilometers away and the ensuing 40-meter-high tsunami killed 36,000 people. (Bloomberg, Reuters, BBC)