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Sicilian airport reopens amid Mount Etna's latest eruption

Sicilian airport reopens amid Mount Etna's latest eruption

JAKARTA: In the days since a tsunami hit the beachside stage on which pop band Seventeen was performing on Saturday night, its lead vocalist Riefian “Ifan” Fajarsyah has had to deal with the news of the loss of his band members and his wife.

The band’s representative Yulia Dian told Arab News that Riefian “hasn’t taken a rest since Saturday and is recovering from the tragedy.”

Riefian is the sole surviving member of the band, which was formed in 1999 when most of the members were 17 years old, hence its name. 

The band lost its bassist, drummer, guitarist, road manager and a crew member, as well as Riefian’s wife Dylan Sahara. Riefian survived after floating in water for two hours surrounded by dozens of dead bodies.

“Thank you friends for your prayers. Only God can reciprocate your kindness. Please send a prayer for my wife,” Riefian wrote in a caption of an Instagram post featuring him and Dylan on a snowy mountain.

Dylan and the musicians are among the 429 confirmed casualties of the tsunami. The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said 1,484 people were injured, 154 are still missing and more than 16,000 are displaced.

BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho on Tuesday said the government has declared an emergency phase until Jan. 4 in Pandeglang, a district in Banten province that was worst hit.

The district is home to palm-fringed beaches where cottages and beach huts just meters from the shore are a popular holiday destination.

Tanjung Lesung Beach, where Seventeen was performing, is one of the most popular beaches in Pandeglang, and was packed with tourists spending the long weekend ahead of Christmas.

Sutopo said rescuers from various government agencies and volunteers are concentrating on finding casualties, with heavy machinery deployed to remove the rubble of washed-away buildings and strewn vehicles.

“The navy has also deployed its vessels to search for bodies on the sea, as many of the victims had been floated into the waters,” he added.

Rescuers have been able to access one of the seven villages in the Sumur sub-district on the southwestern tip of Java island, Sutopo said. “Even on normal days before the tsunami, the roads in the area were bad. They are even worse now. We had to deploy heavy machinery to open access to the area,” he added.

Dwikorita Karnawati, head of the Meteorology, Climate and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), said the tsunami was caused by a chain of natural phenomena: High tides amplified by the full moon, the volcanic eruption of Mount Anak Krakatau on the Sunda Strait, and an undersea landslide.

Indonesia, which is prone to natural disasters, still lacks a system to detect a tsunami caused by anything other than earthquakes, officials said.

“The Sunda Strait tsunami is a rare occurrence because it was moved by an undersea landslide triggered by… volcanic eruptions,” Sutopo said. 

There is still no official data on the height of the waves, but according to a field survey and witness accounts they were between 2 and 5 meters high, he added.

“In Carita Beach (in Pandeglang), the wave was up to 2.5 meters high. That’s why the cottages and buildings on the coast were flattened to the ground,” he said.

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