30 Oct 2010

Aid begins to arrive at Indonesia tsunami area

8:01 am on 30 October 2010

Three aid ships carrying emergency supplies have reached the worst hit parts of the Indonesian island chain devastated by a tsunami which killed over 400 people.

However, bad weather is again obstructing efforts to reach survivors on Friday, with heavy rain and high tides making it hard deliver supplies to devastated isolated coastal communities.

Some 408 people are known to have died in the tsunami triggered by a 7.7-magnitude quake that hit near South Pagai in the Mentawai Islands on Monday evening local time.

Local officials say most of the villages hit by the tsunami have been reached, with victims from the worst-hit areas being buried in mass graves, the BBC reports.

But almost 400 remain unaccounted for, and rescuers are now working on the assumption that a large number of those missing will not be found alive.

Thousands of people have also been displaced and hundreds are severely injured.

Relief workers are hoping to drop some aid by helicopter but there are concerns that not enough aircraft have been sent to the region. Local media are reporting that while some aid is getting through, it is not nearly enough.

Amid the devastation, an 18-month-old baby has been found in a tree by a 10-year-old boy. The baby is said to be recovering in a health centre but has reportedly lost both his parents in the disaster. His rescuer also lost his parents.

Indonesia's president President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has visited the islands, promising the government would help West Sumatra's administration to build temporary homes, health facilities and schools, his spokesman said.

Aerial images of the destruction taken from helicopters show some villages were simply washed away by Monday's three-metre wave, while the scale of the damage in the worst-affected communities is slowly emerging.

An official said two villages on South Pagai, the hardest-hit island, were completely destroyed, and those who survived had nothing left except for the clothes they were wearing.

Volcano erupts again

In central Java, a volcano erupted for a second time on Thursday, hours after some of its victims were buried in a mass grave.

Mt Merapi shot huge clouds of gas and ash into the air, two days after its initial eruption, but there were no reports of damage.

At least 32 people were killed in the first eruption.

Tens of thousands of people remain in temporary shelters, and officials have urged them not to go home.

Some 50,000 people who have fled their homes on the mountain's slopes are housed in temporary shelters.

The southern slope of the mountain is a wasteland, with houses burnt and flattened, trees scorched and stripped of leaves.