A powerful tsunami has smashed the coastline of Indonesia, killing at least 43 people and injuring at least 600 more.

At least 43 people are dead and hundreds more have been injured, but the soaring official death and injury toll is likely to rise.

Waves struck on Saturday evening local time in the Sunda Strait region, which is between the islands of Java and Sumatra.

Victims have so far been confirmed in the Pandeglang, South Lampung and Serang regions.

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Initial indications are that the tsunami was caused by undersea landslides following an eruption of the Anak Krakatoa, or "Child of Krakatoa", volcano.

Nearly 300 New Zealanders are registered on SafeTravel as being in Indonesia.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is responding to the disaster and urging Kiwis in the affected areas to notify friends and family of their status and register their details on www.safetravel.govt.nz

Krakatoa, a volcanic island situated in the Sunda Strait is also the name for the surrounding island group comprising the remnants of a much larger island of three volcanic peaks which was obliterated in a cataclysmic 1883 eruption.

Anak Krakatau emerged in 1927 from the caldera formed in the 1883 eruption, and is the current location of eruptive activity.

Indonesia's Disaster Mitigation Agency said earlier that at least 288 people were injured, and dozens of buildings were damaged.

Several people are also believed to be missing, the agency said.

Disaster authorities initially assured people there was no tsunami risk and told locals not to panic, and that there was tidal wave activities as a result of the full moon.

They later issued a clarification, admitting that a tsunami had indeed struck.

Yesterday evening disaster striked on my family trip to the coast of West-Java (Anyer) -when we got hit by tsunami...

Posted by Øystein Lund Andersen on Saturday, 22 December 2018

On Twitter, the boss of the agency, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, apologised and said the incorrect initial information was based on available data.

"The initial error occurred because of referring data and information from various sources that there was no tsunami," a translation of the message read.

"There was no earthquake that triggered the tsunami at that time. That is the difficulty in determining the cause of the tsunami at the beginning of the incident."

Rescue crews are heading to the area to assist locals. It's not known if any New Zealanders were in the area at the time.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho has deleted tweets including this one saying 'This is not a tsunami. Nor is it caused by the eruption of Mount Anak Krakatau. But the tide is due to the full moon.'
Sutopo Purwo Nugroho has deleted tweets including this one saying 'This is not a tsunami. Nor is it caused by the eruption of Mount Anak Krakatau. But the tide is due to the full moon.'
His next tweet, since deleted, urged people not to evacuate to the hills, even though images showed surges of water.
His next tweet, since deleted, urged people not to evacuate to the hills, even though images showed surges of water.

Vision shared on social media shows locals running in fear as waves swamp the coastline, inundating restaurants and hotels.

"I had to run, as the wave passed the beach and landed 15-20m (meters) inland," Oystein Lund Andersen wrote on Facebook.

He said he was taking pictures of the volcano when he suddenly saw a big wave coming towards him.

"Next wave entered the hotel area where I was staying and downed cars on the road behind it. Managed to evacuate with my family to higher ground trough forest paths and villages, where we are taken care of (by) the locals. Were unharmed, thankfully."

In September, an estimated 2000 people were killed by a quake and tsunami that hit the city of Palu on the island of Sulawesi.

On Boxing Day in 2004, a massive earthquake in the Indian Ocean triggered a number of tsunami waves that killed an estimated 228,000 across 14 countries.

That tsunami was generated by a 9.1-9.3 magnitude undersea megathrust earthquake caused by a rupture along the fault between the Burma Plate and the Indian Plate, with an epicentre off the west coast of northern Sumatra. A series of large tsunamis up to 30m high were created by the underwater seismic activity that became known collectively as the Boxing Day tsunamis.

Communities along the surrounding coasts of the Indian Ocean were seriously affected, and the Indonesian city of Banda Aceh reported the largest number of victims.

The earthquake was one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history, and the third largest ever recorded. It had the longest duration of faulting ever observed, between eight and 10 minutes.

- AP