AUSTRALIANS were among surfers swept into the jungle by a monster wave off Indonesia.
Surfers from Melbourne, Sydney and the Gold Coast surfing in the trouble spot with Australian surf travel company The Perfect Wave have been uncontactable by phone this morning after a 3m tsunami wave hit Indonesia’s southern island, Pagai. .
The Perfect Wave director Jamie Gray said their boat ‘The Midas’ struck a boat which burst into flames when the wave hit.
Mr Gray told 3AW he had established email contact with an agent in the area this morning who assured him everyone was safe.
“His boat ‘D’Bora’ has gone and picked up our ‘Midas’ guests who ran into a boat called ‘Freedom’, which caught on fire. Obviously the tsunami has come along and shifted the boats off anchor and they’ve run into each other,’’ he said.
“I don’t know how one of the boats has lit up. By the looks of things they’ve all been washed into the jungle area, they’ve all climbed trees and by all accounts everyone seems to be okay, but I can’t get a hold of them by phone.’’
Mr Gray said he was continuing to try and make contact with the group.
“Obviously until I speak to them the concern will be there and I’m pretty sure that family and friends will be on the phone very shortly to ensure their safety,’’ he said.
Mr Gray said the area was extremely volatile for earthquakes and that aftershocks were highly likely.
“It’s around that Ring of Fire. It’s a very volatile area,’’ he said. “The operators out there live with it day in and day out. They’re all very experienced in regards to safety and they’ll look after the guests to the best of their ability.’’
Charter boat operator Rick Hallett said he and other charter boat guests jumped for their lives as a 3m tsunami wave hit.
He said it picked up one boat and swept it towards his, which exploded in a fireball.
Those on board threw anything that floated into the water including surfboards and fenders and jumped in.
Mr Hallett said several people were carried 200 metres inland, while others scrambled up trees, but amazingly no one was lost.
A strong earthquake hit off the western coast of Indonesia’s Sumatra island in the early hours of today.
The 7.5-magnitude quake struck at a depth of 15km on a small island off Sumatra, the US Geological Survey said.
Today’s quake was reportedly felt in five towns in Bengkulu and West Sumatra provinces.
The quake struck at 1.42am and was centered about 78km southwest of the Pagai Selatan in Mentawai Island, with a depth of 10km, according to the Indonesian Meteorology and Geophysics Agency.
Initial reports had said a tsunami watch for local areas was issued, but lifted within an hour.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade are seeking to confirm if Australian’s have been caught up in the tsunami and are alright.
They have advised family and friends to contact loved ones in the area before trying DFAT on (02) 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135.
Earlier, authorities ordered the mass evacuation of thousands of Indonesian villagers as eruption fears rise.
Seismic activity has escalated dramatically at the volcano on the densely-populated island of Java, with increasing lava spurts and about 500 multi-phased volcanic earthquakes recorded over the weekend, officials said.
The state office of volcanology had upgraded its alert level to red, signaling an eruption could be imminent.
“The magma has been pushed upwards due to the escalating seismic energy, and it’s about a mile below the crater,” a government volcanologist warned.
About 19,000 residents have been ordered to evacuate a danger zone 10 kilometres from the crater 2914-metere mountain.
About 3000 have already moved to makeshift camps, officials said.
“The evacuation has been under way since this morning. We put a priority on children, women and elderly,” field coordinator Widi Sutikno of the main Sleman district on the southern slopes of the mountain said.
Merapi – whose name means “Mountain of Fire” – has been blanketed with clouds since the morning.
Central Java Governor Bibit Waluyo called for residents to stay calm.
“Procedures are in place to deal with the disaster if it happens so people need not panic,” he was quoted as saying by Antara state news agency.
The volcano is the most active of 69 volcanoes with histories of eruptions in Indonesia, which straddles major seismic fault lines in a region known as the “Pacific Ring of Fire.”
The archipelago has more active volcanoes than any other country.
Mount Merapi, which lies around 25 kilimotres north of the town of Yogyakarta in the center of Java, last erupted in June 2006 killing two people.
Its deadliest eruption occurred in 1930 when more than 1300 people were killed. Heat clouds from another eruption in 1994 killed more than 60 people.
“It currently has more energy than before the 2006 eruption. We haven’t found strong indications that it will erupt explosively as it did in 1930, but there is still a possibility,” Surono said.