28 Oct 2010

Tsunami death toll rises in Indonesia

As the death toll from the tsunami in Indonesia rises the Red Cross tells Channel 4 News the weather has been hampering its aid efforts three days after the disaster.

Three hundred people are still missing following Monday’s disaster. Many more are homeless or injured.

Aid is slowly starting to get through. A ship, sent by Indonesian authorities, arrived today with essential food and water supplies for survivors.

Sikakap island has become the base island for relief aid as the area was not affected by the tidal wave. The ship, which brought food supplies, also brought equipment to help locate bodies.

In the tsunami-ravaged Mentawai islands search and rescue teams found roads and beaches with swollen corpses lying on them, according to the head of the West Sumatra provincial disaster management centre.

The situation is very urgent. Ahmad Husein IFRC

The International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) has 24 volunteers on the Mentawi Islands but severe weather is continuing to hamper their aid mission.

Spokesman Ahmad Husein, speaking from Jakarta, told Channel 4 News the group was forced to take shelter: “It’s very difficult because of the weather. The team must stay on a small island at the moment because of the large waves but they will continue to try to reach small, isolated islands.

“The situation is very urgent, The tsunami happened on Monday 25 October, it’s now Thursday 28 October. There is a critical need for blankets, tarpaulins and family pens.”

Hundreds of people have been injured by the tsunami (Reuters)

In the hard-hit Pagai Island, huge swathes of land were underwater and houses lay crumpled with slabs of concrete piled on the surrounding sand.

According to the charity SurfAid International, villages in Pagai have been either completely destroyed or significantly damaged.

“There’s debris in the trees probably two or three metres up in the trees, so it gives you an indication of how high the water went through,” Tom Plummer, from SurfAid International said.

On Thursday, more than 100 survivors crowded into a makeshift medical centre in Pagai.

Three-metre wave

Some still wept for loved ones lost to the three-metre wave as they lay on straw mats or sat on the floor, waiting for medics to treat injuries including broken limbs and cuts.

The fault line that ruptured Monday on Sumatra island’s coast also caused the 2004 quake and the Indian Ocean tsunami that killed 230-thousand people in a dozen countries.

Elsewhere in Indonesia Mount Merapi erupted on Thursday for the second time in a week, blasting vast plumes of ash into the sky.

The death toll from the initial eruption is more than 30.

There were no immediate reports of new casualties after Merapi’s second eruption.

More than 40,000 people had fled or been evacuated from Merapi’s slopes earlier in the week, but many started to return after the volcano appeared to become calmer.