A peaceful evening turned to horror on Saturday when powerful tsunami waves – on top of alarmingly high tides – raced towards the shoreline of a coast popular with holiday makers. Within minutes, the waves had flattened areas on both sides of Sunda Strait, taking lives and causing injury as they uprooted trees, crashed through property and scattered debris through towns and villages.

  • 281 people killed and 1,016 injured
  • Powerful 30-90cm waves on top of very high tides
  • 117 Indonesian Red Cross volunteers in action

Local branches of the Indonesian Red Cross went into action immediately. One hundred and seventeen Red Cross volunteers began giving life-saving first aid and evacuating injured survivors, conducting search and rescue, distributing emergency items including water, blankets and tarpaulins and undertaking rapid assessment of people’s needs. Two helicopters from the Indonesian Red Cross are being used for search and rescue.

We know from previous tsunami operations that the urgent priority is treating injured survivors to save lives and prevent long-term harm. The Indonesian Red Cross has sent 22 ambulances with medical crews to transport injured people to hospital, a team of orthopaedic specialist doctors and five mobile medical teams (three to Banten, two to Lampung).

Following any disaster of this size, damage to infrastructure, including wells, can be compromised. The Indonesian Red Cross has strong capacity to purify and distribute water – skills that were strengthened following the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004. The Red Cross is sending in 14 water trucks (six to Banten and eight to Lampung) to ensuring survivors have access to clean, safe drinking water.

There are fears the death toll could still rise as emergency teams visit hard-to-reach areas. A wide stretch of Java’s western coastline has been affected by this tsunami. With debris scattered across the region, it could take days before crews are able to access remote areas and provide a complete picture of the impact of this disaster.

The Red Cross continues to respond and will provide further assistance based on the assessments currently under way. The Indonesian Red Cross is well placed to support people. Staff and volunteers have extensive experience responding to disasters – most recently the Lombok earthquakes (a series of earthquakes that started on 29 July) and the Sulawesi earthquake and tsunami, which happened almost exactly three months ago (on 28 October).

It is unclear if the danger is over. The government has warned of the risk of further tsunamis between 7am on 23 December and 7am on 26 December. The Red Cross is helping people evacuate away from the coastline to higher ground. People are understandably jittery.

People are understandably jittery. This is a traumatic event that has shaken people, who will also have the Lombok and Sulawesi disasters fresh in their minds. The Indonesian Red Cross has trained staff and volunteers who can offer psychosocial support as people recover.

For more information, please contact:

In Indonesia:

Aulia Arriani, +62816795379, aulia_arriani@pmi.or.id

Kathy Mueller, +62 821 1075 4506, kathy.mueller@redcross.ca

In Kuala Lumpur: Rosemarie North, +60 122 308 451, rosemarie.north@ifrc.org

In Geneva: Laura Ngo-Fontaine, +41 79 570 44 18, Laura.ngofontaine@ifrc.org