Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Source : The Washington Post
PADANG, Indonesia -- Navy ships packed with medicine and food and rescuers in helicopters headed Tuesday to remote Indonesian islands that were pounded by a 10-foot (3-meter) tsunami, sweeping away villages and killing at least 113 people
Rough seas and bad weather have hampered relief operations, leaving villagers to fend for themselves for nearly two days. With not enough people to dig graves, corpses littered beaches and roads, according to district chief, Edison Salelo Baja. Fisherman were scouring waters in search of survivors.
The fault line that ruptured Monday on Sumatra island's coast also caused the 2004 quake and monster Indian Ocean tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries.
Disaster officials have been unable so far to reach many of the villages on the hardest hit Mentawai islands - a popular surfer's destination that is usually reachable only by a 12-hour boat ride. But they were preparing for the worst Wednesday.
"We have 200 body bags on the way, just in case," said Mujiharto, who heads the Health Ministry's crisis center, putting the death toll so far at 113 with hundreds more still missing.
Indonesia, the world's largest archipelago, is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity due to its location on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire - a series of fault lines stretching from the Western Hemisphere through Japan and Southeast Asia.
The country's most volatile volcano, Mount Merapi, 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) to the east, started to erupt at dusk Tuesday as scientists warned that pressure building beneath its lava dome could trigger one of the most powerful blasts in years.
The 7.7-magnitude quake that struck late Monday just 13 miles (20 kilometers) beneath the ocean floor was followed by at least 14 aftershocks, the largest measuring 6.2, and many panicked residents have been too afraid to return home.
That could account in part for the more than 500 people still missing, said Hendri Dori Satoko, a local parliamentarian who was overseeing a fact-finding missing. "We're trying to stay hopeful," he said.
The first cargo plane loaded down with 16 tons of tents, medicine, food and clothes was expected to arrive by Wednesday afternoon, said Nelis Zuliastri, a spokeswoman for the National Disaster Management Agency.
Two helicopters also were on the way, as was a Navy ship and a boat carrying dozens of police and military personnel, said Ade Edward, another disaster official.
Officials say hundreds of wooden and bamboo homes were washed away on the island of Pagai, with water flooding crops and roads up to 600 yards (meters) inland. In Muntei Baru, a village on Silabu island, 80 percent of the houses were badly damaged.
Those and other islets hit were part of the Mentawai island chain, 175 miles (280 kilometers) from Sumatra.
Eight Australian survivors, and American and a New Zealander arrived in the Sumatran city of Padang on Wednesday, recounting their harrowing encounter with the tsunami.
They said they were on the back deck of their anchored boat, the 'MV Midas,' when the wall of water smashed them into a neighbouring vessel, triggering a fire that quickly ripped through their cabin.
"They hit us directly in the side of the boat, piercing a fuel tank," said Daniel North, the American crew member. "Almost immediately, the captain gave the order to abandon ship and everyone got off the boat."
They clung to surfboards, fenders - anything that floated - as they washed in the wetlands and then climbed the highest trees they could find and waited for more than 90 minutes until they felt safe.
Ade Edward, a disaster management agency official, said crews from a tourist boat were found safe after more than 24 hours missing in the Indian Ocean, including up to nine foreigners.
Associated Press writers Niniek Karmini and Irwan Firdaus contributed to this report.
Source : The Hindu
MENTAWAI ISLANDS (Indonesia): Helicopters with emergency supplies finally landed on Wednesday on the remote Indonesian islands slammed by a tsunami that killed at least 272 people, while elsewhere in the archipelago the toll from a volcanic eruption rose to 30, including the mountain's spiritual caretaker.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono cut short a state visit to Vietnam to rush home to deal with the dual disasters that struck Indonesia within 24 hours, straining the country's ability to respond.
The first aerial surveys of the region hit by the three-metre tsunami revealed huge swaths of land underwater and the crumbled rubble of homes torn apart by the wave.
Two days after an undersea earthquake spawned the killer wave, the casualty count was still rising as rescuers landed for the first time on the Mentawai island chain, which was closest to the epicenter and the worst hit. Bad weather had kept them away previously.
About 1,300 km to the east in central Java, disaster officials were scouring the slopes of Indonesia's most volatile volcano for survivors after it was rocked by an eruption that killed at least 30 people, including an old man who refused to abandon his ceremonial post as caretaker of the mountain's spirits.
Mount Merapi erupted at dusk on Tuesday, sending up searing ash clouds and killing more than two dozen people.
Authorities warned the thousands who fled Merapi's wrath not to return during Wednesday's lull in volcanic activity.
Among the dead was Maridjan, an 83-year-old man who had been entrusted by a highly respected late king to watch over the volcano's spirits. Maridjan had for years led ceremonies in which rice and flowers were thrown into the crater to appease the mountain. There were reports that the old man was found kneeling face-down on the floor, a typical Islamic prayer position. — APThe Times of India