Stealth Indonesia tsunami turns perfect night into nightmare
By NINIEK KARMINI and MARGIE MASON
Tuesday, December 25
TANJUNG LESUNG, Indonesia (AP) — As the white strobe lights flashed hypnotically, the band’s lead singer screamed into the crowd: “We are! We are Seventeen! Seventeen!” He then let loose with a long note as the guitarist wailed behind him.
Some in the audience clapped as they sat at beachside tables covered in crisp white linens. Others walked casually across the grass. A small boy wandered among the tables, and a woman in a headscarf moved closer to the stage, her cellphone out and ready to capture the memory of this perfect night, a year-end concert at a popular resort on Java island’s west coast.
Then, in a heartbeat, it was all gone.
A torrent of water emerged from the darkness like a monster, swallowing the stage and tossing band members, their instruments and all of their equipment into the audience. It was the last moment, caught on video, that most of them would ever know.
The tsunami that roared ashore from the Sunda Strait on Saturday night, killing more than 370 people and injuring over 1,400 on Java and Sumatra islands, was particularly cruel. It hit on a busy holiday weekend when many people were enjoying the warm night breeze on the beach under a full moon.
And unlike most big waves, which are typically portended by an earthquake’s violent shaking, this was a stealth attack. There were no major ground convulsions, no sirens, no text message alerts.
Instead, a volcanic island with an ominous name – Anak Krakatau, or “Child of Krakatoa” – rumbled as it has been doing for months before a giant chunk of it apparently broke loose like a rock falling into a tub, silently unleashing disaster.
“The perfect atmosphere suddenly changed dramatically in just seconds!” recalled Mamad Setiadi, who had helped set up at the Tanjung Lesung Beach Club for the pop band Seventeen, which performed for employees of a state-owned electric company while a comedian simultaneously had audience members laughing in another area of the lawn.
“I saw the seawater suddenly rising and pushing everything on the stage, and I instinctively climbed a tree,” he said. “From the top of that tree, I witnessed a horror that is difficult for me to describe in words. The seawater drowned everything … trees, cars, buses, benches – mixed with men, women and children! The sound of music turned into a hysterical scream!”
An estimated 500 guests and workers were milling about the resort’s grounds when the wall of water surged forward, then sucked back to the sea with such force that survivors had to use all of their strength just to hold on. Seventeen’s bass player, guitarist, drummer, road manager and technician were all killed. The lead singer, Riefian Fajarsyah, survived, but his wife, a backup singer, was missing. The comedian and his wife were also killed.
“Be peaceful there, guys,” Fajarsyah wrote in a series of posts on social media, apologizing to his dead friends for missing their funerals as he desperately searched for his wife. “We will not forget you, and we will keep sending our prayers. See you. Until next time.”
On Monday morning, rescuers found eight more bodies near the hotel, including a boy around 8 years old. Six soldiers in green fatigues carried a body bag through the pool area, the once-gleaming blue water now replaced with mud and debris.
Nearby, only a skeleton of the band’s stage remained beside a heap of twisted metal, overturned chairs and splintered sticks of wood. Soggy white tablecloths covered in dirt were strewn across the lawn. Grass and sod were jammed up against a keyboard resting beside broken speakers on the ground.
Fajarsyah vowed not to leave without his wife.
“I’m still here. I’m not going anywhere,” he posted online. “I will pick you up. We will go home together, darling. Wait for me, Dylan Sahara.”
Her body was finally identified at a hospital and flown back to Jakarta early Tuesday along with the drummer’s remains. The arrival was met at the airport by celebrities, public figures and a government official who wished to pay their respects.
Thousands of soldiers, police and volunteers fanned out across beaches on both affected islands Monday, searching for anyone trapped alive under the debris.
The Indonesian Medical Association from the hardest-hit Banten region on Java said teams of doctors were treating patients in need of orthopedic and neurological surgery, including many Indonesian tourists who had been visiting the area for the long weekend ahead of Christmas.
The tsunami did not rise as high or surge as far inland as other waves, including the one that hit Indonesia’s Sulawesi island in September, which along with a powerful earthquake killed more than 2,100 people and buried thousands more. But it was still powerful and destructive, with hotels and hundreds of homes heavily damaged or ripped apart.
Dwikorita Karnawati, the head of Indonesia’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency, said scientists are still working to determine exactly what happened, but the tsunami was probably caused by a landslide on Anak Krakatau’s steep slope. The 305-meter-high (1,000-foot-high) volcano lies on an island linking the Indian Ocean and the Java Sea. It has been erupting since June and did so again 24 minutes before the tsunami, the agency said.
Satellite imagery showed a 64-hectare (158-acre) deformation on the volcano’s southwest side, suggesting the eruption caused a section to break loose, Karnawati added. Other experts have said an underwater landslide also could have been the cause.
The volcanic island formed after the 1883 eruption of the Krakatoa volcano, a disaster that killed more than 30,000 people. Most of the island sank into a volcanic crater under the sea, and the area remained calm until the 1920s, when Anak Krakatau began to rise from the site. It continues to grow each year and erupts periodically.
Indonesia lies along the Ring of Fire, an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin. A magnitude-9.1 earthquake off Sumatra island unleashed a devastating tsunami on Dec. 26, 2004, that killed more than 230,000 people in a dozen countries, with most of the victims in Indonesia.
But even in a disaster-prone country where mass casualties are commonly reported, some survivors of Saturday’s tsunami said it seemed extra menacing because everything seemed perfect until the second it hit.
“That night was a nightmare,” said Setiadi, the stage crew member who climbed down from the tree after the water receded. He ran home in the darkness, tripping and falling several times over bodies in the street. “I cannot forget it for the rest of my life.”
Mason reported from Jakarta, Indonesia.
Indonesia says avoid coast near volcano, fearing new tsunami
By NINIEK KARMINI
Wednesday, December 26
CARITA BEACH, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian authorities urged people to avoid the coast in areas where a tsunami killed at least 430 people over the weekend in a fresh warning issued on the anniversary of the catastrophic 2004 Asian earthquake and tsunami.
The big waves that followed an eruption on a volcanic island hit communities along the Sunda Strait on Saturday night. The eruption of Anak Krakatau, or “Child of Krakatoa,” is believed to have set off a large landslide on the volcano, apparently on its slope and underwater, displacing water that slammed into Java and Sumatra islands.
Indonesia’s Meteorology, Geophysics and Climatology Agency asked people late Tuesday to stay at least 500 meters (1,640 feet) and up to 1 kilometer (less than a mile) from the coastline along the strait, which lies between the two islands.
The agency was monitoring Anak Krakatau’s eruptions as stormy weather and high surf continued to plague the area, said agency head Dwikorita Karnawati.
“All these conditions could potentially cause landslides at the cliffs of the crater into the sea, and we fear that that could trigger a tsunami,” Karnawati said at a news conference. She asked that communities remain vigilant and not to panic.
The warning was reiterated by the country’s disaster agency on Wednesday.
The tsunami struck without warning, taking people by surprise even in a country familiar with seismic disaster. No big earthquake shook the ground beforehand, and it hit at night on a holiday weekend while people were enjoying concerts and other beach and resort activities.
It was a sharp contrast to the disaster that struck 14 years ago off the northwestern tip of Sumatra island. An enormous magnitude 9.1 earthquake rocked the area the morning after Christmas, creating gigantic waves that surged far inland and swallowed everything in their path. The wall of water killed some 230,000 people in a dozen countries, more than half in Indonesia’s Aceh province.
The devastation was vast, and the disaster was among the worst in recent history. Saturday’s event, coupled with an earthquake and tsunami in September on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island that killed at least 2,100 people, triggered flashbacks for some who survived the 2004 tragedy.
“When it happens, I always remember what we have been through,” said Qurnaty, 54, who lost her home and several family members to the 2004 waves in the hard-hit provincial capital of Banda Aceh.
Qurnaty, who like many Indonesians uses only one name, prayed with surviving family members at a mass grave there on Wednesday’s anniversary. “Every time I see them (on TV), I feel really, really sad. All we can do from here is to pray for them,” she said.
Though recovery was slow, some victims of the latest tsunami said they remember the resilience of the Acehnese people, which gives them hope that they too can rebuild their homes and their lives.
“I am scared. I am traumatized by the tsunami that I only knew before from the news,” said Kusmiati, who also uses one name. “Now I know how horrifying a tsunami is.”
Her face was still bruised and her legs swollen after she and her husband managed to survive being hit and dragged under by the waves after fleeing a beach villa in Carita, where they were working.
Beaches were largely empty in the area, which is typically crammed with tourists, and police patrolled on motorbikes, warning people to stay away from the coast. Some residents defied the warning, returning to what was left of their homes to begin cleaning up as heavy rain fell and waves pounded the shore.
“I am still afraid that the tsunami will return, so when dark comes, I stay at a temporary shelter on the hill,” said Rohayati, who worked to salvage what was left of her battered house, 300 meters (985 feet) from the sea. “I hope the government can provide a tsunami warning, like a siren, for people living in coastal areas so we can be alerted of a potential tsunami and have time to save ourselves.”
The country’s system of tsunami detection buoys — deployed after the 2004 disaster — has not worked since 2012, with some units being stolen or vandalized.
Karnawati, of the meteorology agency, said that because the tsunami was caused by volcanic activity, it would not have been picked up by the system’s seafloor sensors, which monitor movement from conventional earthquakes responsible for most of Indonesia’s tsunamis.
Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for Indonesia’s Disaster Mitigation Agency, said Wednesday that the volcanic activity is believed to have triggered an underwater landslide and that a large chunk of Anak Krakatau’s southwest slope collapsed. This movement displaced a large volume of water, creating waves that raced toward the shore.
Residents of Sumur village, which has been slow to receive aid due to roads being cut off, remained stunned by how quickly the tsunami hit. The beach, located just a few kilometers (miles) from the tourist island of Umang near Java’s western tip, is popular for snorkeling and other water activities. The tsunami decimated the area, ripping houses from their foundations and bulldozing concrete buildings.
Scientists have said the waves were recorded in several places at about 1 meter (3.3 feet) high, but Sumur residents insisted they towered more than 3 meters (10 feet), possibly as high as 5 meters (16 feet), which Sutopo also confirmed in some areas.
More than 21,000 people have been displaced from their homes and heavy equipment is urgently needed in the Sumur subdistrict near Ujung Kulon National Park to help get aid flowing and reach people who may be injured or trapped, said Nugroho.
He said the death toll was 430, with more than 1,400 people injured and at least 159 missing.
Anak Krakatau formed in the early 20th century near the site of the cataclysmic 1883 eruption of Krakatoa, which killed more than 30,000 people. It has been erupting since June and did so again 24 minutes before the tsunami, according to the geophysics agency.
Associated Press writers Margie Mason and Ali Kotarumalos in Jakarta, Indonesia, contributed to this report.
Egypt’s 2 ex-presidents appear in the same courtroom
By SAMY MAGDY
Wednesday, December 26
CAIRO (AP) — Two former Egyptian presidents appeared Wednesday in the same Cairo courtroom, with Hosni Mubarak testifying in a retrial of Mohammed Morsi on charges related to prison breaks at the height of the 2011 uprising that toppled Mubarak.
The 90-year-old Mubarak, whose nearly three-decade rule was ended by a popular uprising in 2011, entered the courtroom with his two sons Alaa and Gamal. He carried a cane and wore a dark blue suit and matching tie. He appeared physically well and mentally sharp though his speech was slow at times. Chief Judge Mohammed Sherin allowed Mubarak to take a seat while testifying.
The hearing took place amid heavy security in a police facility in a southern Cairo suburb.
Morsi, 67, and the Muslim Brotherhood swiftly rose to power in elections after Mubarak’s ouster, only to find themselves imprisoned a year later when millions protested against them for abuse of power, leading the military to overthrow the government.
The jailed former leader is involved in four lengthy trials in different cases, including on charges of undermining national security by conspiring with foreign groups and orchestrating a prison break.
Wednesday’s case is rooted in the 2011 escape of more than 20,000 inmates from Egyptian prisons — including Morsi and other Muslim Brotherhood members — during the early days of the 18-day uprising against Mubarak. Morsi and the other Brotherhood leaders escaped two days after they were detained as Mubarak’s security forces tried to undercut the planned protests.
At the time, authorities also cut off internet access and mobile phone networks, crippling communication among the protesters and with the outside world.
In June 2015, the Cairo Criminal Court issued sentences of death and life imprisonment against Morsi and other key figures in the Brotherhood. However, in November 2016, the Court of Cassation, Egypt’s final recourse for appeals in criminal cases, annulled the sentence and ordered a retrial of the defendants.
During two hours of testimony, Mubarak said Wednesday that former spy chief and vice president Omar Suleiman told him on Jan. 29, 2011, that at least 800 armed people crossed into the norther part of Sinai Peninsula, through tunnels from Gaza with help from the Muslim Brotherhood.
“They entered Egypt through Gaza and had weapons. … They headed toward the prisons to release prisoners belonging to Hezbollah, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood,” Mubarak said, referring to Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group and Hamas militants who have ruled Gaza since 2007.
Mubarak refused to answer most questions, saying he needs permission from the military and President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who led the military’s 2013 ouster of Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president. El-Sissi has since overseen a massive crackdown on Morsi’s supporters, jailing thousands of them along with secular activists behind the 2011 uprising.
“If I talk, I will open many subjects that I am barred from discussing without permission,” the former president said.
Mubarak was freed last year, ending nearly six years of legal proceedings against him. He was acquitted by the country’s top appeals court of charges that he ordered the killing of protesters during the 2011 uprising.
Mubarak has already served a three-year sentence for embezzling state funds in connection with the protesters’ case.
Morsi, who wore a blue jumpsuit, did not make use of the opportunity offered to defendants to question Mubarak.
Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed el-Beltagi, a defendant in the case, questioned Mubarak but was sentenced to two years in prison for insulting the judiciary after the chief judge said el-Beltagi ridiculed the court’s decision to stop him from asking more questions.
The chief judge adjourned the hearings until Jan. 24.
Op/Ed column: The same beginning—what happened?
What do Christians, Jews, and Muslims have in common? The three world monotheisms, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, all believe in the Genesis account of creation; the first humans in the Garden of Eden; and the fall of humanity when Adam and Eve disobeyed the Creator. The rest of the world calls the Adam and Eve story a myth; not compatible with science on the emergence of the human species.
Two naked people, a talking snake, and a fruit tree with special powers. An analogy, a tall tale, or a literal story to show and tell how God’s children choose the knowledge of good and evil and disobeyed? But the crux of the story focuses on human freedom—the freedom to make their own choice. But God also outlined the consequence of their choice—death.
Enter the Bible, the Torah, the Quran.
Bible. The name for the complete 66 books in the Old Testament and the New Testament.
Torah. The Hebrew name given to the Five Books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
Quran. The central religious text of Islam, which Muslims believe to be a revelation from God (Allah).
The Bible, the Torah, and the Quran believe that Jesus was Jewish, his disciplines were Jewish, and the people who initially followed them were Jewish. However, they differ on the identity of Jesus.
Christianity. Christians believe Jesus was God in human form: messiah, redeemer, savior.
Judaism. Some regard Jesus as a Jewish teacher, a rabbi, while others see him as a false prophet.
Islam. Muhammad was the founder of Islam and a prophet. “The Quran explicitly makes mention of Jesus, one of 26 prophets named in the Muslim holy book,” according to an article in the Arab Weekly. www.thearabweekly.com/.
Enter a history of conflict, strive, and religious wars.
The state of Israel was established in 1948. The Israeli Occupation refers to the lands captured during the 1967 war that remain under military control, including the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, and Gaza.
The Israeli-Palestinian decades-old conflict is ongoing. Israel is home to holy sites for both Judaism and Islam. Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs both want the same piece of land.
“Israelis and Palestinians are caught in what could be called a “cycle of denial.” The Palestinian national movement denies Israel’s legitimacy, and Israel in turn denies the Palestinians’ national sovereignty. The cycle of denial has defined this shared existencesince the creation of Israel 70 years ago,” according to a 2018 article in The Atlantic.
On Dec. 6, 2017, President Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel; an event long awaited by pro-Israel American Jews, the nation of Israel and evangelical Christians around the world. But, Jerusalem is also sacred real estate to Arabs and Muslims.
Christians remained the largest religious group in the world in 2015, making up nearly a third (31 percent) of Earth’s 7.3 billion people, according to a Pew Research Center demographic analysis. “More babies were born to Christian mothers than to members ofany other religion in recent years, reflecting Christianity’s continued status as the world’s largest religious group,” according to a 2017 article on the Pew website. www.pewforum.org/.
Globally, Muslims make up the second largest religious group, with 1.8 billion people, or 24 percent of the world’s population.
Judaism is the oldest of the world’s three great monotheistic religions (serving one God).
And Judaism, Islam, Christianity, all are strongly tied to the ancient city of Jerusalem.
Jerusalem was the capital of King David’s Israel in the Hebrew Bible, as well as the city where David’s son Solomon built his temple.
According to the Quran, Jerusalem was the last place the Prophet Muhammad visited before he ascended to the heavens and conversed with God.
Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, is a celebration of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Jesus was crucified at a spot outside Jerusalem called Golgotha.
Judaism, Islam, Christianity; the same beginning—what happened?
Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is an author, columnist, and educator. She lives in Southern Ohio.