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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sumatra - Indonesia Earthquake death rate increases

At least 40 dead, 380 missing after Indonesia quake.

Sumatra News Updates! At least 40 people were killed and 380 others were left missing after 7.7-magnitude earthquake struck off Sumatra on Monday, Indonesian officials said Tuesday.

The numbers were in flux because information was trickling in from remote parts of Indonesia, a country made up of myriad islands.

Large waves also were keeping rescue crews from reaching the disaster zone, Hendri Dori Satoko, head of the Mentawai Islands parliament, said on local television.

More than 100 of those missing were presumed aboard a tourist ship that lost contact, said Surya of the West Sumatran disaster management board.

"The local residents in the Mentawai Islands reported seeing a tsunami as high as 3 meters [that] reached as far as 600 meters inland," said Mujiharto, of the Indonesian health ministry.

The quake struck at 9:42 p.m. Monday. A tsunami warning was triggered shortly after, but was lifted about two hours later.

"It is possible that a small tsunami has occurred, especially in the islands. We, however, don't have an official report at the moment," said Fauzi, the head of Indonesia's meteorological and geophysics department.

Eight to 10 of those aboard the missing were thought to be Australians.

"The Australian Embassy in Jakarta is continuing its efforts to contact the Australian captain of a tourist boat, the MV Southern Cross, which is understood to have been in the affected area when the earthquake occurred," said Lisa Bateman, a spokeswoman for Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

"The embassy's efforts to contact the captain have been hampered by poor telephone coverage in the area and by the fact that the boat is reportedly not equipped with a satellite phone," she said.

Indonesia's sea security coordinator said that it had not received any distress calls from boats in the area, she added.

The epicenter of the quake was 240 kilometers (149 miles) south of Padang, at a depth of 20.6 kilometers (12.8 miles), according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The magnitude was revised upward from a preliminary magnitude of 7.5.

The city of Padang and the Mentawai Islands, a popular surfing destination, are located at the meeting of two tectonic plates, making them vulnerable to earthquakes and tsunamis.

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