|CBS/AP|AIWA! NO!|Christmas celebrations traditionally filled with laughter and uplifting music were replaced by somber prayers for tsunami victims in an area slammed by waves that hit without warning, killing more than 420 people and leaving thousands homeless in disaster-prone Indonesia.
Pastor Markus Taekz said Tuesday his Rahmat Pentecostal Church in the hard-hit area of Carita didn’t celebrate with joyous songs. Instead, he said, only about 100 people showed up for the Christmas Eve service, usually attended by double that number. Many congregation members had already left the area for the capital, Jakarta, or other locations away from the disaster zone.
“This is an unusual situation because we have a very bad disaster that killed hundreds of our sisters and brothers in Banten,” he said, referring to the Javanese province. “So our celebration is full of grief.”
Church leaders called on Christians across Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, to pray for victims of the tsunami.
The death toll climbed to 429 on Tuesday with more than 1,400 people injured and at least 154 missing after the tsunami slammed into parts of western Java and southern Sumatra islands, said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for Indonesia Disaster Mitigation Agency.
He said more than 16,000 people were displaced. The Reuters news agency reported that thousands of residents had to move to higher ground, and a high-tide warning was extended to Wednesday.
Nugroho said there was an urgent need for heavy equipment in the remote Sumur subdistrict, a hard-to-reach area near Ujung Kulon National Park that experienced heavy damage.
Some villages there have been cut off due to damaged roads and bridges, making it difficult to supply aid and help people who may be injured or trapped.