Death toll from Indonesia tsunami soars to 429, expected to climb

Dec. 25 (UPI) — The death toll from a tsunami that hit Indonesia rose to 429 Tuesday, but the toll could be even higher once rescue workers get into areas that are currently inaccessible due to road and bridge damage.

The tsunami hit beaches full of people on Saturday, sweeping them out to sea without warning. More than 1,500 have been injured and officials hiked the official toll Tuesday. The tsunami damaged more than 600 houses and displaced 12,000 people.

“There are six villages that we haven’t been able to enter yet because the roads, bridges are badly damaged,” Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for the Southeast Asian country’s disaster mitigation agency, told reporters. “The road was actually in bad condition even before the tsunami.”

Volcanic activity at Mount Anak Krakatau could trigger additional mudslides and more deadly tsunamis, officials said. The volcano is part of the Ring of Fire, a volcanic hot zone that stretches 25,000 miles from New Zealand to Japan. It’s believed that the eruption forced rock beneath the water to shift, displacing the water above it.

The same Anak Krakatau volcano is blamed for an eruption that killed 36,000 people in 1883.

The country’s tsunami warning system has been inoperable because of vandalism and technical problems since 2012, said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, head of public relations for the Indonesian National Disaster Mitigation Agency.

Pope Francis asked the world to pray for the victims of the disaster.

“My appeal is that these brothers and sisters may not lack our solidarity and the support of the international community,” he said.

Two months ago, a tsunami slammed into the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, killing more than 2,000 people. Indonesia’s worst disaster to date was the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami that killed nearly 230,000.

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