Bad weather hits aid efforts

Four days after tsunami struck, survivors detail tales of misery

SIMMERING: The Mount Merapi volcano releases lava for the first time since its latest round of activity began earlier this week on Friday. AFP

Hundreds of kilometres away, a volcano on the island of Java that killed 35 people this week erupted five more times on Friday, sending searing clouds of ash cascading down its slopes, but no more casualties were reported. Officials said two more people died of burns from Tuesday’s eruption.

Four days after the tsunami crashed into the Mentawai islands off Sumatra, details of survivors’ misery and new accounts of the terrifying moments when the wave struck were still trickling out from the area, which was cut off by rough seas for nearly two days after the 7.7-magnitude earthquake that churned up the killer wave.

A group of surfers told of huddling, screaming and praying as they watched a roaring wall of water cross a lagoon and slam into their three-story thatch-roofed resort. The power of the wave shook the building so hard they feared it would collapse. All 27 people at the resort survived—five of them by clinging to trees.

Dozens of injured survivors of the tsunami languished at a badly strapped hospital on Friday, including a newly orphaned two-month-old boy found in a storm drain.
The injured lay on mats or the bare floor as rainwater dripped onto them from holes in the ceiling and intravenous tubes hung from plastic ropes strung from the rafters. The baby, its lungs filled with fluid and with cuts on its face, blinked sleepily in a humidified crib.

“We need doctors, specialists,” nurse Anputra said at the tiny hospital in Pagai Utara—one of the four main islands in the Mentawai chain slammed by Monday’s tsunami.
A relief coordinator acknowledged on Friday that aid was being held up. Suryadi, who is coordinating the aid response from West Sumatra, said tonnes of aid has reached the main towns on the worst-hit islands by helicopter, after rough seas kept boats away for two days.

But rescue workers say they can’t deliver that aid to the farther-flung coastal villages that are accessible only by foot or by sea because roads are too old or damaged for large trucks. “We need more boats,” Suryadi said.

Heavy rains are churning up the sea and cutting visibility for helicopters, making it unsafe to deliver aid either by boat or air.The weather is also disrupting communications, making it hard to contact the islands by mobile phone or even satellite phone, he said.

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