Death toll in Indonesian tsunami continues to rise

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Map showing location of earthquake

More than 650 people have now died after a tsunami hit the Indonesian island of Java on Monday afternoon. In the past few days, around 100 dead bodies have been recovered, and it is estimated that over 300 people are still missing. An underwater earthquake with a magnitude of 7.7 triggered the deadly wave which ravaged a 200km stretch of Java's southern coast.

Thousands of people are continuing to camp in the hills. They are too apprehensive to return home due to fears of another tsunami, but according to Reuters, health officials are worried about the threat of disease among those who are still in refuge. "The risk of catching diseases is there because they live in an open area with limited tents and water," said Rustan Pakaya, from the health ministry's crisis centre. He added that people were being given injections to protect them from diseases like measles, tetanus and cholera.

Areas worst hit, like the small town of Pangandaran, are beginning to return to normal, and many businesses there have begun to open up again. "The market and many shops are already open today and although they are not operating fully, things are slowly returning to normal," district spokesman Wasdi bin Umri told AFP.

Yesterday, Indonesia's President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono toured Pangandaran and met people who were staying in a temporary camp. The Indonesian government has been criticised for failing to inform residents living on the coast that a tsunami was looming. After the underwater earthquake was detected, US and Japanese agencies issued warning notices, but the government has admitted it was unable to transmit the bulletins to coastal areas. Speaking yesterday, Mr Yudhoyono vowed to hasten efforts to build an early warning system planned after the 2004 Asian tsunami. "We want to expedite efforts to get infrastructure for the tsunami warning system in place," AP quoted him as saying. "I will work with parliament to get the budget".