Indonesian disasters death toll rising

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The Independent Online

The death toll in Indonesia continues to rise after a double natural disaster hit the island in just 24 hours.

A violent eruption from Mount Merapi, the country's most active volcano, followed a 7.7 magnitude earthquake which triggered aftershocks and a three-metre tsunami near islands off the west coast on Monday.

To date 112 people have been confirmed dead, 109 are missing and 520 have been displaced from their homes, according to the Indonesian arm of aid agency Oxfam.

It is not yet known whether any British people were affected by the two disasters, although reports indicate that the Macaronis Surf Resort, popular with tourists, was not hit.

Oxfam reported that four districts of Sumatra, housing 34,000 people, were devastated by the quake, while nearly 50,000 people are being evacuated from regions surrounding the volcano.

Ian Bray, a spokesman for Oxfam, said: "Everything has been taken away from these people - many of them only have the clothes they're standing up in.

"The priority needs at the moment are clean water, food, blankets, clothing, mats, hygiene kits and emergency shelter.

"The area hit by the earthquake in particular is pretty remote - there is no airport and the islands are only accessible by speedboat, which takes two to three hours and can only carry two tonnes of supplies."

The earthquake struck off the coast of the Mentawai islands, 13 miles below the ocean floor, and was followed by at least 14 aftershocks.

Panicked residents fled to high ground as a tidal wave hit the islands, washing away homes, crops and vital supplies.

The fault line which triggered the quake is the same one behind the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami in the Indian Ocean that killed more than 230,000 people.

Some 800 miles to the east, the volcano, near Kinahredjo on the island of Java, poured out molten lava and ash at 11am (GMT) yesterday, killing at least 26 people.

The International Red Cross has dispatched 100 aid workers in the region to help with the evacuation effort. One of its volunteers was among those killed by hot ash from the volcano while assisting in the relief effort.

Patrick Foster, a spokesman for the Red Cross based in Kuala Lumpur, said: "It's surreal out here, everything's covered in a thick layer of ash. We're focusing on getting people out of the danger zone and setting up emergency shelters.

"The problem is that this could stop tomorrow or it could go on for weeks. At the moment, we're gearing up for the worst."

Lala Borja, director of Save the Children in Indonesia, said that the organisation was monitoring the situation and on standby to respond, adding: "We store relief supplies in warehouses in Java and Sumatra, ready for distribution at the onset of a crisis, and have experienced local and international staff on call to respond."

Katherine Richards, a spokeswoman for aid agency CARE International, said: "We've sent an assessment team out to see what kind of response is needed in the area hit by the volcano, and CARE Indonesia are dealing with our aid efforts out there.

"In the tsunami-hit region, the government is providing the majority of support, along with the Indonesian Navy. We haven't been informed of any requests for international assistance so far."

The Foreign Office confirmed no British nationals were involved in the disasters in Indonesia.

A spokesman said: "We have not been contacted by anyone about friends or relatives who are out there, so as far as we know no British nationals are among those affected."