27 Oct 2010

Indonesia tsunami death toll rises

9:14 pm on 27 October 2010

More than 100 people have been killed and scores are missing in Indonesia after a tsunami triggered by a powerful earthquake off the coast of Sumatra.

The 7.7-magnitude quake hit 78km west of South Pagai in the Mentawai Islands at 9.42pm on Monday local time.

Waves up to three metres high swept away 10 villages in the chain of islands. On Wednesday the death rose to 154, with another 400 people missing, AFP reports.

The islands of South Pagai and North Pagai are reported as particularly badly affected, with big waves sweeping half a kilometre inland.

An official for the Department of Fisheries, Hardimansyah, said most buildings in Betu Monga in the Mentawai Islands have been destroyed. He said people have told of children being torn from their arms by the waves.

The Indonesian Red Cross expects the death toll to rise significantly.

Phil Charlesworth, of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, told Radio New Zealand that wholesale damage has occurred to two of the Mentawai Islands.

The Red Cross has emergency supplies, but heavy winds, rough seas and driving rain are a problem as the only way to take them is by sea, he says.

The Red Cross also has accommodation for up to 24,000 thousand refugees from a volcanic eruption in central Java.

The charity SurfAid, which has been in the area for 10 years, has three boats on the water searching for people.

Spokesperson Dave Jenkins says the destruction is worse than first thought and there is an urgent need for food and shelter.

Dr Jenkins says the New Zealand Government has already made a donation, but more support is desperately needed from the global community.

The ABC reports a group of nine Australians and one Japanese, who were on board a boat close to the area where the quake occurred, have been found alive and well.

On 26 December 2004, a tsunami caused by a 9.1 quake off the coast of Sumatra killed more than 226,000 people in 13 countries. It was the deadliest tsunami on record.