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Death Toll From Java Tsunami Rises


At least 320 people are dead, hundreds are injured and nearly 3,000 have been left homeless by the tsunami that battered the Indonesian island of Java Monday. Aid agencies are assessing damage from the powerful wave, which destroyed buildings and lives along a 160-kilometer stretch of the island's southwestern coast.

Hundreds of police and military rescue workers were looking for survivors Tuesday as the scale of Indonesia's latest natural disaster unfolds.

Red Cross Indonesia spokesman Hadi Kuswoyo says a full-scale relief operation is underway in West Java, and the organization is preparing to send still more supplies.

"We are just waiting for the latest information from the field, and we have already prepared a tarpaulin and family tent for two thousand families," he said.

Local emergency coordinators report at least 23,000 people have evacuated Pangandaran Beach, which is believed to be the hardest-hit area. Seventeen aftershocks had been registered by daybreak Tuesday, two of them above 6.0 in magnitude.

Indonesian and international aid organizations are surveying the wreckage caused by the tsunami, which pummeled coastal villages and beach resorts on Monday afternoon.

The head of the United Nations emergency relief office in Indonesia, Abdul Haq Amiri, says aid workers from the Indonesian Red Cross, the U.N., Oxfam and other aid organizations traveled all night to get to the affected villages. He says the rescuers had to deal with damaged roads and power outages that have hindered access to the affected area.

"Because of the presence of the international organizations in Yogyakarta, which is closest to that area, and because that we have unfortunately developed a lot of experience and capacity in Indonesia in dealing with disaster, this time we were much better and quicker in responding to this," said Amiri.

Indonesia is still recovering from the 5.9 magnitude quake that struck the Yogyakarta area in Central Java in May, killing more than 5,700 people and leaving tens of thousands homeless.

The country began planning for a tsunami warning system after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which killed more than 150,000 people in the country's Aceh province and more than 200,000 throughout the region.

But the warning system is still in its early phases, and Java, where yesterday's tsunami struck, does not yet have elements of the system in place. The full system is not scheduled to be completed until 2009.

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