Many residents of Indonesia’s Sumatra island fled to higher ground before dawn on Tuesday after rumors that a notorious volcano had erupted sending a tsunami hurtling towards the coast, local media reported.
The panic was prompted by reports that Mount Anak Krakatoa, a volcano off Lampung province’s southern coast between Sumatra and Java islands, had erupted, national news agency Antara reported.
Some of the largest seismic events in history took place in Indonesia in 1883 when Krakatoa erupted, sparking a tsunami and killing an estimated 36,000 people.
That eruption was so powerful that it blew away much of the volcano, leaving behind what Indonesians now call Mount Anak Krakatoa, or Child of Krakatoa.
Memories of the Dec. 26, 2004, earthquake and tsunami that left 160,000 people on Sumatra dead or missing remain fresh in the minds of Indonesians.
About an hour after midnight on Tuesday people fled their homes as telephone calls and mobile phone text messages heightened anxiety in several coastal towns in Lampung.
Many residents left their homes unlocked, leaving all of their belongings. Mosques broadcast verses from the Quran over speakers as people fled.
“People over here are ready to go, especially after the mosques announced (the danger),” Yuntar, who lives in the city of Tanjung Karang, was quoted saying.
Police and other government officials had to drive around neighborhoods with megaphones to convince people the reports of impending doom were not true.
The situation only calmed after down as the sun rose and showed nothing had happened.
Similar scenes of panic have occurred in other areas across Indonesia after walls of water smashed into Sumatra’s Aceh province the day after Christmas following a magnitude 9 quake.
Aftershocks, including one that killed hundreds of people on Nias island, have continued to rattle Sumatra daily since December’s big quake.