'Everything's gone': Indonesian villagers recount tsunami horror

Harry PEARL
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Rescue teams are ramping up a desperate search for survivors after a volcano-triggered tsunami slammed into beaches around Indonesia's Sunda Strait

Rescue teams are ramping up a desperate search for survivors after a volcano-triggered tsunami slammed into beaches around Indonesia's Sunda Strait (AFP Photo/ADEK BERRY)

Carita (Indonesia) (AFP) - Asep Sunaria heard a loud "whoosh" just seconds before a wall of water threw him off his motorbike, swallowing his house and the village he called home until Saturday night.

As rescuers hunted for survivors of the volcano-triggered tsunami that killed at least 281 people along Indonesia's coast, 42-year-old Sunaria was trying to come to grips with a disaster that struck without warning.

"The water came from over there with a sound like the wind -- 'whoosh'," he recounted to AFP.

"I was shocked. I didn't expect it at all -- there was no warning ... At first I thought it was just a tidal wave but the water rose so high."

He and his family sprinted from Sukarame village to higher ground, leaving them with only the clothes on their back.

But they were among the lucky ones.

Some villagers perished when the powerful tsunami struck on Saturday night, sweeping over popular beaches of southern Sumatra and the western tip of Java and inundating tourist hotels and coastal settlements.

PHOTOS: Volcano-triggered tsunami hits Indonesia's Sunda Strait, killing hundreds »

Experts say it was likely triggered by a massive underwater landslide following an eruption of the Anak Krakatoa volcano in the Sunda Strait.

"My family are safe but my house has been destroyed -- everything's gone," said Sunaria.

"Now I'm looking for bodies that have not been found. We only found one yesterday and we're looking for spots where more bodies could still be buried."

Another villager, Sunarti, waded through knee-deep water as she searched for belongings outside her destroyed house.

"We found two dead bodies over there yesterday," the 61-year-old indicated.

Sunarti said her 100-year-old mother survived and was staying at higher ground until they could be sure there would be no more killer waves -- something experts have warned remains a serious risk.

"My life was already tough," Sunarti, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, told AFP.

"We're very poor and now this happens"

Down the road in Cilurah village, survivor Ade Junaedi said he witnessed nature's fury firsthand.

"It happened very quickly," he said.

"I was chatting with a guest at our place when my wife opened the door and she suddenly let out a panicked scream. I thought there was a fire, but when I walked to the door I saw the water coming."

Back in Sukarame village, Sunarti and her hungry neighbours waited for outside aid to arrive in their stricken community.

"There's been no help at all so far," she said.

"Some people are starving."