Mentawai Tsunami Death Toll Reaches 343

As reported on news.yahoo.com

MENTAWAI ISLANDS, Indonesia – Rescuers searching islands ravaged by a tsunami off western Indonesia raised the death toll to 343 Thursday as more corpses were wrapped in body bags or buried by neighbors. Officials said hundreds of missing people may have been swept out to sea.

Elsewhere in Indonesia, the volcano that killed 33 people earlier this week began erupting again, though there were no reports of new injuries or damage. Mourners held a mass burial Thursday during a lull in Mount Merapi’s rumblings. The twin catastrophes struck within 24 hours in different corners of the seismically charged region, severely testing the nation’s emergency response network.

Islanders dug graves and slung up tarps to sleep under in one of the hardest-hit areas, where a 10-foot (three-meter) wave had swept houses off their foundations and deposited the shattered remains in the jungle. Many residents who fled to the hills were refusing to return home for fear the sea might lash out again.

Officials say a multimillion-dollar warning system installed after a monster 2004 quake and tsunami broke down one month ago because it was not being properly maintained. A German official at the project disputed that, saying the system was working but the quake’s epicenter was too close to the Mentawai islands for residents to get the warning before the killer wave hit.

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