October 26, 2010

Indonesia Rocked By Deadly Tsunami

A 7.5 magnitude earthquake that hit 48 miles west of South Pagai in the Mentawai islands late Monday touched off a tsunami that wiped out the coastal Indonesian village of Betu Monga, where many residents are missing and feared dead, officials said on Tuesday.

"Of the 200 people living in that village, only 40 have been found. 160 are still missing, mostly women and children," Hardimansyah, an official with the regional branch of the Department of Fisheries, told Reuters by phone.

"We have people reporting to the security post here that they could not hold onto their children, that they were swept away. A lot of people are crying," Hardimansyah added.

Hardimansyah said the nearby village of Malakopa was also hit hard, with at least one confirmed death and two others missing. He said 80 percent of the buildings in the area were damaged or destroyed and food supplies were running low.

Local authorities searched for missing people and set up emergency posts, said one police officer at Sikakap district police station. "We are predicting that people will need food supplies and shelter. The rain is coming down very hard, the wind is very strong," the officer said.

Mudjiarto, the head of the disaster response unit at the Health Ministry, said two bodies had been found near Sipora island and there were still many missing.

In South Pagai Island the wave pushed as far as 2000 feet into coastal villages. In North Pagai Island waves reached the roofs of local houses, Mudjiarto told Reuters.

A tourist boat carrying a small group of Australians has been outside of radio contact since the temblor occurred, according to Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center confirmed Monday in an email that the earthquake had touched off a significant tsunami in the area.