Indonesian Christians warn on quake and tsunami deaths

By Ecumenical News International
October 30, 2010

An Indonesian Christian aid group has sent a team to the Mentawai islands in West Sumatra, where an earthquake and tsunami have lead to the deaths of hundreds of people - writes Hisashi Yukimoto.

"It is estimated the death toll will continue to grow," said the group, Yayasan Tanggul Bencana Indonesia (YTBI), on its web site. "Most of the victims are in South Pagai Island, which seems the most heavily affected."

On 27 October 2010 the group had reported 112 dead but the following day reports said the toll was at least 340 and cited officials who said it could climb to more than 500. Hundreds of people are missing and are thought to have been swept away by the powerful tsunami that followed the 25 October earthquake.

The Indonesian archipelago sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire fault line, one of the world's most active areas for earthquakes and volcanoes. Around 250,000 people were killed around the Indian Ocean when the same fault line triggered a massive tsunami in December 2006.

The YTBI belongs to the Geneva-headquartered ACT (Action of Churches Together) Alliance of churches and humanitarian agencies.

"Food supplies, clean water, shelter, clothing, medicines, blankets and medical teams are badly needed. Response is slow since the areas are isolated and can only be accessed by boat or helicopter," said the ACT Alliance from Geneva.

The alliance is also responding to the effects of a volcano that erupted on 26 October at Mount Merapi near Yogyakarta, as well as to people affected by the earthquake and tsunami.

It said the 7.7 Richter Scale earthquake hit the Mentawai Islands at 9.40 pm local time on 25 October, and that a total of 95 aftershocks have since been reported.

"The earthquake triggered a three metre-high tsunami with waves slamming inland about 600 metres and reaching the roofs of houses in the coastal villages on North Pagai and South Pagai Islands," the ACT Alliance said on 28 October.

Staff of the YTBI and other ACT Alliance Indonesia Forum members, Church World Service and the YAKKUM Emergency Unit (a Christian Organisation for public health) have now arrived on Sikakap Island on to conduct a joint assessment.

The YTBI had earlier reported that it had difficulty finding transportation to Mentawai.

The Rev Parasoran Simanjuntak, the chairperson of the Protestant Christian Church in Mentawai, reported that houses on the beach had been submerged by the waves. He said there were reports that Muntey Baraubaru village in North Pagai had been destroyed by the tsunami but that the bad weather meant it had not been possible to assess the damage. Several bridges on Sikakap Island have been cut off, he added.

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Communion of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]


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