Tsunami Death Toll Rising

Published by: Frank Galvano on 27th Oct 2010 | View all blogs by Frank Galvano
Pagai tsunami.jpg

Tsunami Death Toll Rising

A spokesman for West Sumatra's disaster management agency reported that at least 311 people are dead and another 410 are missing after a magnitude-7.7 earthquake off the coast of Indonesia spawned a tsunami that slammed into the island nation.  Rescuers and aid workers are still struggling to reach the victims in the remote, hard-hit Mentawi Islands region of the country.

One rescue team, from the Indonesian Red Cross, was turned back on Tuesday by high seas in the area.  The team was was planning another attempt for Wednesday, taking with them some 400 body bags.  A spokesman for the Red Cross said the trip takes a minimum of ten hours.  The organization has vowed to send more supplies, but is waiting to see what is needed.  Urgent needs are expected to be clean water, food, blankets, clothing, medicines, and emergency shelter.

A spokeswoman for the World Vision aid organization in Padang said that three public schools, four churches, a bridge, and a number of roads have been reported damaged by the flooding.  She also said that close to 8,000 households have been affected by the tsunami.  Medicines, water, food, and some tents have already been dispatched to the area via boat.

Reports of villages flattened by the massive tidal wave have been coming in from North and South Pagai Island.  Many homes have been completely destroyed and the limited local hospital services have been overwhelmed by the need for medical attention. 

Indonesian President  Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, in response to the quake and tsunami, as well as the eruption of Mount Merapi in Java, has called off a trip to Hanoi, Vietnam and headed to Padang.

Witnesses in West Sumatra have reported seeing waves as high as 20 feet.  One village of about 200 people was completely swept away by the wave, with only about 40 people having been recovered.  The quake occurred at 9:42 PM, local time, on Monday, and triggered a tsunami warning.  The quake's epicenter , according to the US Geological Survey, was about 150 miles south of Padang, at a depth of 12.8 miles.

Local government immediately issued a warning to residents of West Sumatra province to flee coastal areas and stay away for up to five days because of the potential for aftershocks leading to more tsunamis.  Padang and the Mentawi Islands are located at the junction of two tectonic plates, making them susceptible to tremors and tsunamis.

In December 2004, an earthquake of 9.1 magnitude struck just off the coast of northern Sumatra.  The quake generated a tsunami that killed more than 225,000 people in 14 countries including India, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka.  The Banda Aceh region of Indonesia was hit particularly hard, with about 150,000 fatalities.

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