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Death toll from Indonesia tsunami climbs to 429 as rescue efforts continue

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Rescuers work among debris in Banten Province, in Indonesia, Dec. 24, 2018, looking for possible survivors. Xinhua

PANDEGLANG/SERANG (Xinhua) – Casualty from the tsunami triggered by a volcanic eruption in Sunda Strait in Indonesia climbed to 429 people on Tuesday, spokesman of national disaster management agency Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told a press conference here.

At least another 1,459 have been injured, while rescue efforts have continued amid challenges from bad weather and damaged access.

Hundreds of military personnel, police, rescuers and volunteers were conducting search and rescue in the affected areas along the coastlines of western Java and southern Sumatra islands, which were struck on Saturday night by the deadly tsunami following an underwater landslide from Anak Krakatau volcano that has been erupting for months.

Rescuers with heavy machinery equipment have made their access to more affected areas, retrieving more victims of the catastrophe.

The search and rescue operation for victims of the tsunami was underway in the worst-hit Pandeglang and Serang districts in Banten province, and Lampung Selatan, Panawaran and Tenggamus districts in Lampung province.

Indonesian authorities have managed to identify 185 bodies from overall tsunami dead counts in Banten province as of Monday.

Those bodies were identified from 222 recovered in several affected areas in the province as of 16:00 p.m. Monday.

Unidentified bodies have been transferred to hospitals in Serang, the provincial capital of Banten, and in Pandeglang regency for further identification process.

Also on Monday, President Joko Widodo visited the affected area by helicopter and praised local authorities for swift action in responding to the latest disaster.

He told journalists that he has ordered the Social Ministry to give compensation to the families of the dead as quickly as possible.

Mr Sutopo acknowledged on Twitter that the country’s network of detection buoys had been dysfunctional since 2012, due to vandalism and budget shortfalls.

“The absence and failure of early tsunami warning systems have contributed to the huge casualties, because people have no opportunity to be evacuated,” he said.

The tsunami has displaced 5,665 people, who were taking shelter in evacuation centers, Mr Sutopo said, adding that the figure dropped from 11,453 as many of the evacuees had returned home.

The tsunami also devastated a total of 681 houses, 69 hotels and villas, as well as 420 ships and boats, he said.

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