Indonesia Tsunami Latest Update: 429 Confirmed Dead as Locals Try to Celebrate Christmas Amid Devastation

The death toll in Indonesia has climbed above 400 in the wake of a devastating tsunami that struck the Southeast Asian nation on Saturday.

Government authorities confirmed that at least 429 people died as a result of the natural disaster that hit the west coast of Java island, according to The Guardian. More than 150 people are still unaccounted for and some 1,400 are injured, suggesting the death toll will continue to rise.

Local Christians still came together to celebrate Christmas, albeit under a somber mood, according to Reuters. Many parishioners have fled the region fearing further catastrophe, but Pastor Rusman Anita Sitorus led his congregation in a tearful service.

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Christians hold candles during Christmas Eve mass at a church in Carita, in Banten province, Indonesia, on December 25. Government authorities have confirmed that at least 429 people have died as a result of the natural disaster that hit the west coast of Java island. Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images

"We were planning on holding a Christmas celebration every year, but this year is different due to the tsunami," Sitorus said, Reuters reported.

Many died at the Tanjung Lesung Beach Hotel, where the pop band Seventeen was performing to a large audience when the wave smashed through the stage and flooded the venue. "There were men, women and babies," resort director Kunto Wijoyo told The Guardian, saying that 106 people had died around the hotel property.

Experts believed the tsunami was caused by shifting ground resulting from eruptions by the Anak Krakatau volcano in the Sunda Strait. While locals noticed rumblings from the volcano, they didn't suspect anything out of the ordinary.

"I noticed that there was something different with the [Anak Krakatau] volcano that evening. The rumbling sounds were different and the lava at its top shone brighter," Walid, a 27-year-old fisherman told The Jakarta Post.

But the volcano has erupted every day since June, and sometimes even up to 99 times per day, according to the Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation, the Indonesian newspaper reported. As a result, Walid explained that he along with most others never worried about the mountain's regular rumbling, growing accustomed to the spewing of ash.

The fisherman said that when the tsunami struck, he initially thought the distant white waves were just "the reflection of the full moon."

"But then the sea surface rose up in a very short time. That was when I realized something terrible would happen," he said.

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Boats are left behind by receding water three days after a tsunami hit the west coast of Indonesia’s Java Island, in Teluk village, in Banten province, Indonesia, on December 25. SONNY TUMBELAKA/AFP/Getty Images

Back in 2004, on the day after Christmas, a 9.1 magnitude earthquake in the Indian Ocean also triggered a cataclysmic tsunami that struck 14 regional countries. That disaster left 120,000 dead in Indonesia and 226,000 dead in total.

Thousands had already died in Indonesia this year due to tsunamis and earthquakes. In August, more than 100 people were killed on the touristic island of Lombok, near Bali, due to a 6.4 magnitude earthquake. Later in September, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake created a tsunami, leaving more than 2,000 dead on the island of Sulawesi, with some reports suggesting the actual number could be closer to 5,000.

"We usually celebrate [Christmas] with joy and festivities," Sitorus told Reuters, pointing out his congregation was much smaller this year than normal. "But with the tsunami, we can only pray humbly and not celebrate much for this year's Christmas," he said.

Indonesia Tsunami Latest Update: 429 Confirmed Dead as Locals Try to Celebrate Christmas Amid Devastation | World
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