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Indonesia Struck by Earthquake, Tsunami, & Volcanic Eruption
Indonesia tsunami deaths increase after Sumatra quake
26 October 2010 Last updated at 13:27 ET
More than 100 people have been killed and many are missing after a tsunami triggered by an earthquake off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia.
Scores of houses were destroyed by waves after the 7.7 magnitude quake, which struck 20km (13 miles) under the ocean floor near the Mentawai islands.
Ten villages on the islands were swept away by the tsunami, a disaster official told the AFP news agency.
Damage and rough weather are delaying efforts to reach the affected area.
Hendri Dori Satoko, a lawmaker in the Mentawai islands, told Metro TV: "Our latest data from crisis centre showed that 108 people have been killed and 502 are still missing."
He said some of the missing could have fled to higher ground and were afraid to return to their homes.
Health ministry officials said 113 bodies had been recovered in the area so far, the Associated Press news agency reported.
The search and rescue operation is being seriously hampered by bad weather, officials have told the BBC's Karishma Vaswani in Jakarta.
Heavy rain is preventing helicopters from accessing the area and boats cannot reach the islands either because the dock on the island of South Pagai has been destroyed.
Poor communications have also made it hard for officials to gain accurate information, our correspondent adds.
The disaster comes as thousands of people are being evacuated from the area around the Mt Merapi volcano in central Java, after it began erupting.
But seismologists say there is very little chance that the two events are connected.
The quake hit late on Monday off the west coast of Sumatra. There is no tsunami warning system in place around the Mentawai islands, but the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued an alert of a local tsunami.
It later said a "significant tsunami" had been generated. The alert has now been cancelled as no further waves are expected, although the area is still experiencing strong aftershocks.
Eyewitnesses say a huge wave was created by the quake, which seriously damaged villages or even washed them away entirely.
The islands of South Pagai and North Pagai were reported to be particularly badly affected.
Waves reached 3m (10ft) high and the water swept inland as far as 600m on South Pagai island, said Mudjiharto - the head of Indonesia's health ministry crisis centre, who like many Indonesians goes by only one name.
He said 200 body bags were being sent to the region in case they were needed.
"Of the 200 people living in that village, only 40 have been found - 160 are still missing, mostly women and children," he said.
"We have people reporting to the security post here that they could not hold on to their children, that they were swept away. A lot of people are crying."
As if the Indonesian people hadn't gone through enough already, this happened within the span of hours as well, albeit in a different location:
Indonesian volcano erupts, up to 18 killed in ash
By SLAMET RIYADI, Associated Press Slamet Riyadi, Associated Press 1 hr 42 mins ago
MOUNT MERAPI, Indonesia – Indonesia's most volatile volcano erupted Tuesday after scientists warned that pressure building beneath its dome could trigger the most powerful explosion in years. At least 18 people were killed, including a two-month-old baby, according to doctors and media reports.
Smoke poured out of Mount Merapi, obscuring its cone, according to footage from the private station, Metro TV. Police and volunteers were shown carrying ash-covered corpses, some wrapped in blankets and yellow body bags, to waiting vehicles.
Thousands of villagers started streaming off the 9,737-foot- (2,968-meter-) high mountain as darkness fell Tuesday, crowding into makeshift emergency shelters with straw sleeping mats and bags of clothes and food.
Earlier, many had refused to budge, saying they wanted to tend to crops along volcano's fertile slopes and protect their homes against looters.
While there are fears the current activity could foreshadow a much more destructive explosion in the coming weeks or months, Gede Swantika, a government vulcanologist, said the mountain appeared to be releasing some pressure building up beneath the lava dome.
"It's too early to know for sure," he said, adding a big blast could still be coming. "But if it continues like this for a while, we are looking at a slow, long eruption."
As they contended with the volcano, Indonesian officials were also trying to assess the impact of Monday's 7.7-magnitude earthquake off the coast of Sumatra, about 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) from Merapi. The temblor caused a tsunami that left hundreds dead or missing on a string of remote islands.
Subandriyo, the chief of vulcanologist monitoring Merapi from a nearby observation post, said the eruption began just before dusk Tuesday. A 15-minute thunderous rumble was followed by a huge burst of searing ash that shot hundreds of yards (meters) into the air.
Rocks and debris cascaded down the side of Merapi, which literally means Mountain of Fire.
Officials earlier said, by closely monitoring the volcano — which lies on the main island of Java, some 310 miles (500 kilometers) southeast of the capital Jakarta — they hoped to avoid causalities.
But the death toll was quickly climbing.
An infant died Tuesday when a mother ran in panic after the eruption started, said Mareta, a hospital worker who goes by only one name. As the child's tiny body was covered with a white blanket, his mother looked on, crying hysterically.
Three people at Panti Nugroho hospital succumbed to bad burns after being hit by a searing cloud of ash, said Agustinus Parjo, a spokesman. News portal Detik.com reported 14 other bodies were found in several houses in a mountainside village. It cited an official who visited the site. Metro TV, which showed authorities carrying bodies out of the homes, said 15 were pulled out.
Obviously given Indonesia's past and recent history of natural disasters (Krakatau/Krakatoa and the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami to name two of many), neither volcanoes, earthquakes, or tsunamis are unusual in and of themselves. But to have an earthquake (which triggered the fatal tsunami) and an unrelated fatal volcanic eruption hit within the span a single day is unbelievably bad luck.
Here's hoping that the deaths are not as high as they're predicting and that a lot of the missing have simply gone to higher ground for a while.
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