Indonesian quake, tsunami toll rises to 272 (Third Lead)By DPA, IANS
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
JAKARTA - Rescue workers were searching for hundreds of missing people in tsunami-ravaged villages on Indonesia’s Mentawai islands Wednesday as the death toll rose to 272, officials said.
As many as 4,000 villagers were homeless and staying at temporary shelters after the quake-triggered waves hit their houses, said Febri, an official at the Disaster Management Agency in Padang, the capital of West Sumatra province.
Febri, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, put the death toll at 272 and said a search was continuing for 412 missing.
Most of the deaths were residents in Pagai Utara and Pagai Selatan districts, where 10 villages were swept away by waves as high as three metres caused by a magnitude-7.7 quake Monday, the official said.
Food and other aid were being distributed to survivors and additional rescue workers were being sent to the Mentawais, which takes up to 10 hours to reach by ferry, officials said.
Nelis Zuliasri, a spokeswoman for the National Disaster Management Agency, said Wednesday that supplies from Jakarta were on the way and expected to arrive at midnight.
“Many of the displaced are in the mountains, and if it’s too difficult to deliver aid by road, we will use helicopters to drop supplies,” she said.
West Sumatra Governor Irwan Prayitno said bad weather had hampered aid shipments to the islands.
“We need big vessels,” the state-run Antara news agency quoted Supriyanto as saying. “Big waves as high as five metres hampered small vessels from moving closer to the beach.”
Health Minister Endang Rahayu Sedyaningsih, who visited the islands, said field hospitals would be built in 18 locations. She said surgeons and other medical personnel would be deployed.
“We’ve already reviewed one location in Pagai Selatan district where conditions are quite bad as houses were flattened,” Antara quoted Endang as saying.
“Villages looked deserted,” she said.
The waves from the tsunami reached as far as 600 metres inland minutes after the quake, sweeping away or heavily damaging hundreds of homes, places of worship and bridges, officials said.
On Pagai Utara island, up to 80 per cent of homes in Betumonga village were destroyed, leaving many missing and feared dead, said Mujiharto, head of the health ministry’s crisis centre.
Aftershocks measuring up to 5.5 on the Richter scale were recorded through Wednesday, the Meteorology, Geophysics and Climatology Agency said.
The tsunami and Tuesday’s eruption of the Merapi volcano on Java, which killed 29 people, prompted President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to cut short a visit to Vietnam.
Yudhoyono arrived in Padang Wednesday afternoon and was scheduled to travel to the Mentawais Thursday, Antara said.
The Mentawai chain consists of 70 islands and islets with a population of about 68,000 people. It is located 150 km off the western coast of Sumatra.
Experts warned for the past two years of a massive undersea earthquake and a tsunami similar to the one that devastated Indian Ocean nations in December 2004. That tsunami killed more than 230,000 people, including about 170,000 in Indonesia’s Aceh province on Sumatra.
The 2004 quake was followed by a magnitude-7.6 tremor that hit Padang and neighbouring districts on Java in September 2009, killing over 1,100 people.
Indonesia sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, where continental plates meet, causing frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.