Mentawi Islands, Indonesia The fisherman was jolted awake by the powerful earthquake and ran with his screaming neighbors to high ground. He said they watched as the sea first receded and then came roaring back “like a big wall” that swept away their entire village.
“Suddenly trees, houses and all things in the village were sucked into the sea and nothing was left,” Joni Sageru recalled Thursday in one of the first survivor accounts of this week’s tsunami that slammed into islands off western Indonesia.
The death toll rose Friday to 393 as officials found more bodies, although hundreds of people remained missing. Harmensyah, head of the West Sumatra provincial disaster management center, said rescue teams “believe many, many of the bodies were swept to sea.”
Along with the 33 people killed by a volcano that erupted Tuesday more than 800 miles to the east in central Java, the number of dead from the twin disasters has now reached 426.
After a lull that allowed mourners to hold a mass burial for victims, Mount Merapi started rumbling again Thursday with three small eruptions and another one early today. 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.
In a rare bright spot, an 18-month-old baby was found alive Wednesday in a clump of trees on Pagai Selatan — the same island where the 30-year-old Sageru lived. Relief coordinator Harmensyah said a 10-year-old boy found the toddler whose parents are both dead.