Rescuers battled through rough seas today to reach remote Indonesian islands devastated by a tsunami that killed more than 100 people, with hundreds more missing.
The fault that caused the tidal wave was also the one behind the 2004 quake and monster Indian Ocean tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries.
Although hundreds of disaster officials were unable to get to many of the villages on the Mentawai islands - reachable only by a 12-hour boat ride - they were preparing for the worst.
"We have 200 body bags on the way, just in case," said a spokesman for the Health Ministry's crisis centre.
Indonesia, the world's largest archipelago, is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity due to its location on the Pacific Ring of Fire - a series of fault lines stretching from the Western Hemisphere through Japan and Southeast Asia.
The country's most volatile volcano, Mount Merapi, 800 miles to the east, started to erupt at dusk Tuesday as scientists warned that pressure building beneath its lava dome could trigger one of the most powerful blasts in years.
The 7.7-magnitude quake that struck yesterday 13 miles beneath the ocean floor was followed by at least 14 aftershocks, the largest measuring 6.2, according to the US Geological Survey.
Many panicked residents fled to high ground and were too afraid to return home.
That could account in part for the more than 500 people still missing, said Hendri Dori, a local MP who was overseeing a fact-finding mission. "We're trying to stay hopeful," he said.
Hundreds of wooden and bamboo homes were washed away on the island of Pagai, with water flooding crops and roads up to 600 yards inland. In Muntei Baru, a village on Silabu island, 80% of the houses were badly damaged.
Those and other islets hit were part of the Mentawai island chain, a popular surfing spot 175 miles from Sumatra.
The disaster management agency said crews from several ships were still unaccounted for in the Indian Ocean.
The quake also jolted towns along Sumatra's western coast - including Padang, which last year was hit by a deadly 7.6-magnitude tremor that killed more than 700.Reuse content