Dozens of injured survivors of a tsunami off western Indonesia languished yesterday at a sorely strapped hospital alongside a newly orphaned two-month-old baby found in a storm drain, as the death toll from the disaster rose above 400.
The injured lay on mats or the bare floor as rainwater dripped onto them from holes in the ceiling and intravenous cords 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.
The toll from the tsunami and the 7.7-magnitude earthquake beneath the Indian Ocean that spawned it rose to 408 yesterday as officials found more bodies, and 303 people were still missing, said Agus Prayitno, of the West Sumatra provincial disaster management centre. Rescue teams “believe many, many of the bodies were swept to sea,” said Harmensyah, the disaster centre’s chief.
Along with the 35 people killed by a volcano that erupted on Tuesday, more than 1,300 kilometres to the east in central Java, the number of dead from Indonesia’s twin disasters this week has now reached 443.
After a lull that allowed mourners to hold a mass burial for victims, Mount Merapi started rumbling again on Thursday with three small eruptions and three others yesterday – easing pressure and possibly making another big eruption less likely. There were no reports of new injuries or damage.
The catastrophes struck within 24 hours in different parts of the seismically active country, severely testing Indonesia’s emergency response network.
Aid workers trickling into the remote region found giant chunks of coral and rocks in places where homes once stood. Huge swaths of land were submerged. Swollen corpses dotted roads and beaches.
Relief planes dropped boxes of dried noodles onto tsunami-ravaged Indonesian islands yesterday because storms and a shortage of vessels made helicopter and boat deliveries almost impossible
At the hospital on Pagai Utara, 35-year-old Sarifinus cradled his five-year-old, Dimas, who screamed as medical staff tended to his broken arm.
The man described how, when the towering wall of water came, he grabbed his two other young sons and ran toward the mountain. The wave tore both from his arms and sucked them away.
Sarifinus and his wife, Martina, who sat staring blankly in a corner of the hospital, found Dimas alive after the waters receded.
One of the hardest hit areas with 65 dead was the village of Pro Rogat, on Pagai Seatandug island.
Villagers there huddled under tarps in the rain and told how many people who had fled to the hills were now too afraid to return home.
Mud and palm fronds covered the body of the village’s 60-year-old pastor, Simorangkir. He lay on the ground, partially zipped into a body bag.
Police and relatives took turns pushing a shovel into the sodden dirt next to him for his grave.
His 28-year-old grandson, Rio, travelled by boat to Pro Rogat from his home on a nearby island to check on his relatives after the quake and tsunami.
He said he was picking through the wreckage when someone cried out that he had found a body.
Rio walked over and saw the face of his dead grandfather, partially buried under several toppled palm trees, looking back at him.
“Everybody here is so sad,” Rio said, as relatives prepared to lay his grandfather in the grave.
At the Mount Merapi volcano, activity appeared to be easing pressure behind a lava dome that has formed in the crater, said Safari Dwiyono, a scientist who has been monitoring Merapi for 15 years.
“If the energy continues to release little by little like this, it reduces the chances of having a bigger, powerful eruption,” he said.
Residents from Kinahrejo, Ngrangkah, and Kaliadem – villages that were devastated in Tuesday’s blast – crammed into refugee camps.
Officials brought cows, buffalo and goats down the mountain so that villagers wouldn’t try to go home to check on their livestock.
Thousands attended a mass burial for 26 of the victims 10km from the base of the volcano. Family and friends wept and hugged one another as the bodies were lowered into the grave in rows.
Picture: A newly-orphaned two-month-old baby, who was found in a storm drain, sleeps at a hospital in Sikakap, Pagai Island, West Sumatra in Indonesia, yesterday. Picture: Achmad Ibrahim.
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