Tsunami damage in Sumur, Indonesia.
Image: AP/Achmad Ibrahim

Volunteer rescuers working on beaches along Sundra Strait have rescued more than 30 stranded sea turtles, following the Indonesian tsunami that has killed hundreds of people, the Guardian reports.

On December 22, Indonesia’s Anak Krakatau island volcano triggered a massive landslide, generating a tsunami that killed at least 430 people. With nearly 160 people still missing, support and rescue teams have been scouring the affected areas in hopes of finding survivors. But as the Guardian reports, these rescuers keep stumbling upon stranded sea turtles, who can’t get back into the ocean because they’re either tangled up in debris, upside down, or too far from shore. To date, more than 30 sea turtles have been returned to the ocean, the Guardian reports.

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For the rescuers, the primary goal is to search for human survivors or, regrettably, bodies. Earlier this week, after human needs were addressed, volunteer Eko Sulistio organized a seven-person team in Banten province to attend to the turtles in distress, the Guardian reports. His team managed to save more than 20 turtles, including loggerhead turtles, hawksbill turtles, and green turtles—all of which are either listed as endangered or threatened depending on their geographic location. Another group led by the Serang Nature Conservation Agency managed to save another 13 turtles.

Some turtles were as far as a kilometer away from the shore, Sulistio told the Guardian, while others were hopelessly tangled in marine garbage or flailing upside down. Many turtles were found near the Tanjung Lesung resort, where over 106 people died as a result of the tsunami.

The rescuers improvised stretchers by using tarps, rice sacks, and sticks. One turtle, found stuck in a pile of garbage and lying nearly upside down, weighed upwards of 66 pounds (30 kilograms), requiring four people to lift it back to sea, AFP reports.

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But dehydration, starvation, and predation aren’t the only threats facing the stranded sea turtles.

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“Some fishermen tried to get the turtles, maybe to eat them, but I told them not to,” Sulistio told the Guardian. “They loaded them on a motorbike but I stopped them and warned them that the turtles were protected by law.”

Nearly a week after the tsunami, officials in Indonesia are concerned that ongoing activity at Anak Krakatau could trigger more tsunamis. Residents are being told to stay on alert, while all flights around the volcano have been rerouted and a 5-kilometer (3-mile) exclusion zone implemented.

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The rescuing of 30-plus turtles will be of small consolation to those who have lost loved ones, but it’s a tiny, and significant, glimmer of light in an otherwise horrible situation.

[Guardian, AFP]

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