herald

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Tsunami warning failed as 340 killed

The death toll from a tsunami and a volcano rose to more than 340 as more victims of Indonesia's disasters were found and an official said a warning system installed in 2004 had broken from a lack of maintenance.

Hundreds were still missing after Monday's 10ft wave spawned by a massive quake struck the remote Mentawi islands off western Sumatra, where rescue officials -- kept away for days because of stormy seas and bad weather -- started arriving at the scene to chart the scope of the devastation.

Some wore face masks as they wrapped swollen corpses littering roads and beaches in black body bags. Huge swathes of land were under water and houses lay crumpled with tyres and slabs of concrete piled up on the surrounding sand.



Tsunami

At least 311 people died as the tsunami washed away hundreds of wooden and bamboo homes in 20 villages, displacing more than 20,000 people, said Ade Edward, a government disaster official.

About 800 miles to the east in central Java, the Mount Merapi volcano was mostly quiet but still a threat after Tuesday's eruption that sent searing ash clouds into the air, killing at least 33 people and injuring 17, said Agustinus, a doctor at the local health department who like many Indonesians goes by one name. A mass burial was planned for later today.

Among the dead was a revered elder who had refused to leave his ceremonial post as caretaker of the mountain's spirits.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono rushed home from a state visit to Vietnam to deal with the catastrophes, which struck within 24 hours along different points of the Pacific 'Ring of Fire', a series of fault lines prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity.

The islands lie close to the epicentre of the 7.7-magnitude quake that struck late on Monday beneath the ocean floor.

The fault line on Sumatra island's coast is the same one that caused the 2004 quake and tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries around the Indian Ocean.

hnews@herald.ie

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