Tsunami in Indonesia Kills 154 Following 7.7 Earthquake as Mount Merapi Erupts

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This aerial photo shows a village flattened by Monday's earthquake triggered tsunami on Pagai island, West Sumatra, Indonesia, Oct. 27, 2010. (AP Photo)

A tsunami in Indonesia has killed at least 154 people on the remote Indonesian islands that were hit by the 10 foot wave following a 7.7 magnitude earthquake that struck Monday, and was only 13 miles beneath the floor of the ocean, followed by Mount Merapi erupting Tuesday. There have been reports of at least 14 aftershocks since the quake, with the largest being of 6.2 magnitude. Along with all that devastation and disaster, Mount Merapi, which is located 800 miles east of the quakes epicenter erupted at dusk on Tuesday, releasing searing hot ash clouds and has killed at least 28 people. The earthquake that occurred Monday was on the same fault line of the Indonesia quake in 2004 that triggered the epic 2004 tsunami that left 230,000 people dead in 12 different nations.

Since the tsunami in Indonesia struck, there has been bad weather and heavy seas, which have in effect hampered relief efforts to the islands hit by the tsunami. This has left the surviving residents to residents to be on their own and do with what they have. There weren’t enough people to dig graves as dead bodies were scattered along the beaches and roads, according to the District Chief Edison Salelo Baja. Wednesday was better, as for the first time since the disaster struck, rescuers were finally arriving form Indonesia by plane and helicopter, along with medicine, and other needed supplies. Officials are still attempting to reach the Mentawai islands villages, which was the hardest hit in the tsunami in Indonesia. These islands are a popular destination for surfers, and is commonly reached by boat. The boat trip to the Mentawai islands is 12 hours, making them more difficult to reach, especially in high seas. Local fishermen have been at work searching the area waters for survivors while they were waiting for the relief efforts to arrive. The Mentawai island chain is approximately 175 miles from Sumatra, Indonesia.

The disaster teams were preparing for the worst-case scenario on Wednesday having sent hundreds of body bags to the islands, according to the Head of the Health Ministry Crisis Center, Mujiharto. The current death toll from the tsunami stands at 154, with more than 400 missing. As the weather is finally clearing, relief efforts are expected to pick up greatly, as the first cargo plane was expected to touch down Wednesday afternoon in Sikakap, carrying 16 tons of medicine, food, clothing, and tents. 4 helicopters also arrived in the town on North Pagao island, which is the center for the relief operations here. Navy ships packed with food and medicine also began the trek to the islands. The break in the weather also gives them the chance to do air searches for the missing and to survey damages as well.

Hundreds of homes have been washed on the island of Pagai and water flooding roads and farm fields with crops up to 1800 feet inland, or just over 1/3 of a mile. Another village on Silabu island, Muntei Baru reports that 80 percent of houses are severely damaged. The majority of the homes in the area are made of wood and bamboo, which makes them more vulnerable to any type of bad weather or high waves. After Mount Merapi erupted, Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono interrupted his visit to Vietnam and returned home to deal with the two disasters.

On a brighter note, following the tsunami in Indonesia and Mount Merapi erupting, crews from a missing tourist boat were discovered after more than 24 hours missing at sea in the Indian Ocean, and that total included as many as nine foreigners.

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