By Desk FnF | PUBLISHED: 23, Dec 2018, 11:00 am IST | UPDATED: 23, Dec 2018, 11:00 am IST
Search and rescue teams were scouring rubble for survivors, with at least 584 people injured and twenty reported missing across three regions.
Images broadcast on television showed the wave pushed a tangled mess of corrugated steel roofing, timber, rubble and flotsam inland from the coast at Carita beach, a popular day-tripping spot on the west coast of Java.
Elsewhere it uprooted trees and left a trail of debris strewn across the ground.
Muhammad Bintang, who was at Carita beach when the wave hit, described a sudden surge of water that plunged the tourist spot into darkness.
"We arrived at 9pm for our holiday and suddenly the water came -- it went dark, the electricity is off," the 15-year-old told AFP.
"It's messy outside and we still cannot access the road."
In Lampung province, on the other side of the strait, Lutfi Al Rasyid said he fled the beach in Kalianda city in fear for his life.
"I could not start my motorbike so I left it and I ran... I just prayed and ran as far as I could,"
Authorities say the tsunami may have been triggered by an abnormal tidal surge due to a new moon and an underwater landslide following the eruption of Anak Krakatoa, which forms a small island in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra.
"The combination caused a sudden tsunami that hit the coast," Nugroho said, but added that Indonesia's geological agency was working to ascertain exactly how it happened.
He added that the death toll would likely increase.
Video footage posted to social media by Nugroho showed panicked residents clutching flashlights and fleeing for higher ground.
Indonesian authorities initially claimed the wave was not a tsunami, but instead a tidal surge and urged the public not to panic.
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