News / Asia

Death Toll from Indonesia's Twin Disasters Tops 400

Markus (R) and his sister Lisna cry after they found their mother dead in at Munte village, North Pagai island, West Sumatra, Indonesia, 29 Oct 2010
Markus (R) and his sister Lisna cry after they found their mother dead in at Munte village, North Pagai island, West Sumatra, Indonesia, 29 Oct 2010

Disaster management officials in Indonesia struggled Friday to deliver aid to victims of a tsunami, while the nation's most active volcano continued to spew searing gases and ash.

In central Java, Mount Merapi, which killed 33 people and forced 40,000 people to flee their homes, erupted again Friday, although there were no further reports of casualties.

The volcanic activity combined with Monday's tsunami in the remote Mentawai islands pushed the death toll from the two disasters above 400.  Hope is also fading for hundreds of people listed as missing since a three-meter high wave struck, only minutes after a 7.7-magnitude earthquake hit the area.  

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono visited the affected areas off Sumatra's western coast Thursday, after cutting short a visit to Vietnam.  Rescue workers carried food, tents and clothing to survivors.

An official with Indonesia's meteorology agency told VOA that an early warning system put in place after the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami had failed, adding that lives could have been saved.

The European Union has pledged $2 million in aid for the survivors of the two disasters.

European aid chief Kristalina Georgieva said Thursday the money will help about 65,000 tsunami survivors in the Mentawai islands and 22,000 eruption survivors in central Java.  

A mass funeral was held in central Java for about 20 of the 33 victims of Tuesday's volcanic eruption.  Mount Merapi, whose name means "mountain of fire," last erupted in 2006, killing two people.

Indonesia straddles several fault lines that make the vast island chain vulnerable to volcanic and seismic activity.  

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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