May 18, 2007 / 12:01 PM / 12 years ago

Huge waves hit Indonesian coastlines

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Massive waves have hit coastlines across Indonesia, sending hundreds of panicky residents rushing from their homes and also destroying fishing boats and beachside shacks, officials and media reports said on Friday.

Television footage showed high waves crashing into the tourist island of Bali, parts of the southern coast of Java island and Sukabumi area in West Java where dozens of residents scrambled inland as flood waters flowed into a little village.

“More than 400 people escaped from their houses since the Meteorology and Geophysics Agency said the tidal waves will last for three days,” Memo Hermawan, deputy regent of West Java’s Garut area near Sukabumi, told Reuters.

Weather officials said the waves which began hitting the Indonesian coast on Thursday and continued on Friday were unusual and not linked with the annual weather pattern.

Waves as high as 4-5 meters (13-16 feet) struck Bali’s Jimbaran known for its string of beachfront seafood restaurants, destroying at least 100 fishing boats and sending waiters out to rescue chairs and tables.

A public works department official in Bengkulu city on Sumatra island said a key road had been damaged by the waters, disrupting traffic movement in the area.

Weather officials warned fishermen against sailing in the Java sea on Sunday when they expect the waves to rise higher than normal and authorities in Bali have forbidden people from surfing on the popular Kuta beach until the waves subside.

El Shinta radio reported Aceh on the northern tip of Sumatra island, which was hit by a devastating tsunami in December 2004, was also affected by the tidal waves. Some 170,000 people died or were missing in Aceh alone after the Indian Ocean tsunami.

“The moon is in line with the sun and this, therefore, results in higher tidal waves than usual,” H. Sutrisno, head of data and information at the Meteorology and Geophysics Agency in Bali, told Reuters.

“Tidal waves are predicted to occur for three days, then it will be normal again.”

Another weather official said the waves were caused by winds accumulating in one spot.

“What happened today was caused by winds accumulating in certain spots, causing the sea to rise and move towards the beach,” Achmad Zakir, the weather agency official, said.

“Tidal waves caused by wind movement are very rare here. It’s rather odd actually ... It will be normal in three days.”

Indonesia is hit by frequent undersea quakes, triggering tsunami fears in the sprawling archipelago of about 17,000 islands.

It lies in the so-called “Ring of Fire” where seismic activity is frequent because of the shifting of tectonic plates.

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