News / Asia

Deadly Tsunami Hits Islands in Western Indonesia

Residents flee their homes to higher ground after a strong earthquake is felt in Padang, West Sumatra, Indonesia. The powerful earthquake hit off western Indonesia late Monday, triggering a tsunami warning that sent thousands of panicked residents fleeing
Residents flee their homes to higher ground after a strong earthquake is felt in Padang, West Sumatra, Indonesia. The powerful earthquake hit off western Indonesia late Monday, triggering a tsunami warning that sent thousands of panicked residents fleeing

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Indonesian officials say at least 113 people are confirmed dead after tsunami struck a remote area in the country's west.  Hundreds are reported missing.

Reports of severe damage began to trickle in Tuesday, hours after a 7.7-magnitude earthquake created a tsunami late Monday night.

The waves up to three meters high hit the Mentawai islands, about 280 kilometers off western Sumatra. There are reports that hundreds of homes on the islands were damaged by the quake or the waves.

Wisnu Wijaya, the preparedness director with the National Disaster Management Agency, says the government is getting aid to the islands.

"We already sent a rapid response team to this area, coordinated by the provincial government. We have local disaster management at Padang, because right now the condition of the wave is quite high," said Wijaya.

High waves and stormy weather have made it difficult to reach the affected areas. Communication is also a problem. Wijaya says emergency shelters have been set up and the first team from Sumatra was arriving Tuesday evening to begin a rapid assessment of the aid that was needed.

The quake could be felt as far away as Singapore. It sent tsunami warning systems into action along Sumatra's western coast. It is the latest in a line of natural disasters to hit the area, but Wijaya says for now the damage is manageable.

"Up to now, I think we still can manage this problem," added Wijaya.  "Maybe also we'll send staff to go there and make a better coordination. If they need national resources to deploy there, we'll be ready to support local government."

Indonesia sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area prone to seismic shifts that spark earthquakes and volcanic activity. A massive earthquake in 2004 generated a monster wave that killed more than 230,000 people across the Indian Ocean.

After that disaster Indonesia worked to establish early warning systems and disaster management programs to help deal with future quakes.

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