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Indonesia says avoid coast near volcano, fearing new tsunami

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The Canadian Press


Published Wednesday, December 26, 2018 12:06PM EST


Last Updated Wednesday, December 26, 2018 12:07PM EST

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 metres (1,640 feet) and up to 1 kilometre (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 metres (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 kilometres (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 metre (3.3 feet) high, but Sumur residents insisted they towered more than 3 metres (10 feet), possibly as high as 5 metres (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.

The Canadian Press 

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‘Too soon to celebrate’ Ottawa’s low case count, says Etches

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Ottawa Public Health (OPH) logged just 11 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the lowest daily total since Sept. 1.

Because of the lag between testing and reporting, the low number could simply reflect low turnout at the city’s testing sites on weekends — all month, new case counts have been lower on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 

During a virtual news conference Tuesday, the city’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches said she doesn’t read too much into a single day’s report.

“I don’t think we can make too much of 11. Actually, it could be a lot higher tomorrow — I would expect that, on average,” she said. “It’s too soon to celebrate.”

Provincewide, public health officials reported 1, 249 new cases Tuesday.

OPH also declared 62 cases resolved Tuesday, lowering the number of known active cases in the city to 462. Two more people have died, both in care homes currently experiencing outbreaks, raising the city’s COVID-19 death toll to 361. 

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Santa Claus isn’t coming to Ottawa’s major malls this year

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Santa Claus may still be coming to town this Christmas, but he won’t be dropping by any of Ottawa’s major malls, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday, Cadillac Fairview said Santa won’t be making an appearance at any of its 19 malls across Canada, including Rideau Centre in downtown Ottawa. On Tuesday, Bayshore and St. Laurent shopping centres confirmed they, too, are scrapping the annual tradition.

“Due to the evolution of the situation in regards to COVID-19, we have made the difficult decision to cancel our Santa Program and Gift Wrap Program this year,” Bayshore spokesperson Sara Macdonald wrote in an email to CBC.

Macdonald said parent company Ivanhoé Cambridge cancelled all holiday activities “due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases across the country.”

Macdonald said families that had already booked an appointment to visit Santa will receive an email with more information.  

Virtual visits with Santa

Rideau Centre said based on customer research and discussions with public health officials, its North Pole is going online this year.

“Children will be able to have a private chat with Santa,” said Craig Flannagan, vice-president of marketing for Cadillac Fairview. “You’ll also be able to join a 15-minute storytime with Santa over Facebook Live.” 

At Place d’Orléans Shopping Centre, visitors are invited to take a “selfie with Santa” — actually, a life-size cutout of Santa Pierre, the man who’s been playing Santa at the east end mall for years.

“We understand that this is not ideal, but in lieu of this tradition we will be doing what we can to maintain and encourage holiday cheer,” according to a statement on the mall’s Facebook page.

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Ottawa Bylaw breaks up two large parties in Ottawa over the weekend

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OTTAWA — Ottawa Bylaw is investigating social gatherings of more than 10 people in private homes across Ottawa last weekend.

Mayor Jim Watson tells Newstalk 580 CFRA that Ottawa Bylaw broke-up two house parties over the weekend, with 20 to 25 people at each party.

“That’s the kind of stupidity that angers me, that’s where the bulk of the transmissions are taking place, if we exclude the tragedy of the long-term care homes; it’s these house parties with unrelated people,” said Watson on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa at Work with Leslie Roberts.

“The message doesn’t seem to be getting through, particularly to some young people who think they’re invincible.”

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, Bylaw and Regulatory Services Director Roger Chapman says, “There are still ongoing investigations from this past weekend that could result in charges.”

Chapman says recent investigations led to two charges being issued for social gatherings of more than 10 people in a private residence in contravention of the Reopening Ontario Act.

“In one case, up to 30 individuals were observed attending a house party in Ward 18 on Oct. 24,” said Chapman.

“The second charge was issued following a house party in Ward 16 on Oct. 31, where up to 16 individuals were observed to be in attendance.”

The fine is $880 for hosting an illegal gathering.

Alta Vista is Ward 18, while Ward 16 is River Ward.

Ottawa Bylaw has issued 24 charges for illegal gatherings since the start of the pandemic.

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