At least 108 people were killed and more than 500 missing on Tuesday, including a group of Australian surfers, after a tsunami triggered by a powerful earthquake hit a remote Indonesian island chain, destroying villages in its path.
The 7,7-magnitude earthquake struck in the Mentawai Islands area west of Sumatra late on Monday, generating waves as high as 3m that swept away 10 villages, officials said.
One group of Australian tourists reported that their boat with 15 people aboard was destroyed by a “wall of white water” crashing into a bay after the undersea quake and said some had to cling to trees to survive.
“We felt a bit of a shake underneath the boat … then within several minutes we heard an almighty roar,” said Rick Hallet, an Australian who operates a boat-chartering business in Sumatra.
“I immediately thought of a tsunami and looked out to sea and that’s when we saw the wall of white water coming at us,” he said.
Hendri Dori Satoko, a lawmaker in the Mentawai Islands, told MetroTV: “Our latest data from crisis centre showed that 108 people have been killed and 502 are still missing.”
Disaster Management Agency spokesperson Agolo Suparto added: “Ten villages have been swept away by the tsunami.”
Indonesia sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire” and the archipelago is frequently struck by powerful earthquakes, including one of 7,6 magnitude in September last year in Padang that killed about 1 100 people.
The 2004 Asian tsunami — triggered by a 9,3-magnitude quake off Sumatra — killed at least 168 000 people in Indonesia alone.
Monday’s undersea quake hit at 9.42pm at a depth of 20,6km, 280km south of Padang, the US Geological Survey said. — AFP