www.bbc.co.uk 27th October 2010
Two days after an earthquake measuring 7.7 on the Richter Scale hit the remote Indonesian islands of Mentawai, 412 people are still missing and 272 have been declared dead. The earthquake triggered a 3m (10ft) high tsunami that swamped a series of islands known as the Pagai, destroying ten villages and reaching as far as 600m inland. Rescue teams are only just on the ground but they are still to reach the worst affected areas. Indonesia’s president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has called off a trip to Vietnam and flown back to personally oversee the relief effort. Bad weather is hampering rescue efforts however, preventing ships coming from Indonesia’s largest island Sumatra bringing in aid. The Indonesian army has also been mobilised and is using its helicopters to help the situation. The disaster may have been prevented if an expensive early-warning system built in 2004 had worked. Some of the buoys designed to monitor large waves in the region were not on-line at the time the earthquake broke. It has been suggested that they were vandalised. About 4,000 homes were destroyed by the tsunami with most of the inhabitants fleeing to higher ground. The Indonesian archipelago sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire: a hot-spot for earthquakes. A year ago 1,000 died in the country due to a tsunami and in 2004, 250,000 died similarly after an earthquake of 9.1 caused waves that hit 13 countries in the region.