A tsunami caused by an earthquake off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, has killed 272 people and another 412 are missing, according to BBC.
Furthermore, a volcanic eruption on the island of Java has caused turmoil throughout the community.
Indonesian President To Cut Vietnam Visit Short
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has cut his trip to Vietnam short in order to visit the Mentawi Islands and monitor relief efforts.
According to BBC, Yudhoyono is also expected to be involved in rescue efforts on Java, where Mt. Merapi’s violent eruption has killed 28 and displaced over 10,000 villagers.
Tsunami Relief Efforts
The waves were 10 feet high, which may sound small, but they have nearly flattened the Mentawi Islands. According to BBC, the waves reached as far as 600 meters inland on South Pagai.
Aerial images of the area show bodies being collected from the barren landscape where homes once stood; bodies are littered across the coastline.
Rescue teams have reached the ground, but bad weather has thwarted their efforts to reach the worst-affected areas. Rough seas have also made it difficult to reach the islands from the nearest port, Padang, Sumatra, and the severe weather shows no signs of letting up.
Furthermore, the Indonesian military has been mobilized, according to BBC. They have been delivering medical supplies to affected villagers via helicopter.
The Indonesian Red Cross will also be sending rescue teams to the Islands, bringing food and tents.
Little To No Warning
After the deadly tsunami of 2004, which killed a quarter of a million people in 13 countries, an early-warning system was put in place. However, the monitoring system was not in service when the tsunami hit.
According to BBC, even a functioning warning system may have been too late for those in the Pagai islands.
The Pagai islands were very close to the epicenter and the waves arrived only 10 minutes after the quake. Even with a warning system in place, it would have been too late.
To boot, the Pagai islands are extremely remote, with only a handful of roads and little to no telephone lines, making an assessment of the damage difficult.
Around 4,000 houses were displaced by the tsunami.
Eruption on Java
In conjunction with the tsunami, Mount Merapi on the island of Java, Indonesia has erupted, displaced more than 10,000 people and killing at least 28, according to BBC .
Vulcanologist are not too optimistic either, claiming that the volcano has not finished erupting. Either the volcano will sit and stew, releasing steam slowly, or it will erupt violently, creating a pyroclastic flow like the one that devastated the ancient village of Pompeii.
Keeping Track Of The Public
Indonesian police are finding it hard to keep track of the public, according to BBC.
Many young men are attempting to return home to check on their property and livestock, bringing bags of feed with them.
There are checkpoints manned by police officers, but there are also passages that are not blockaded, making access to the affected region easy.
Many of the villages in the area have been described as “death zones”, where everything has been wiped out by the hot volcanic ash.
The Spirits Of The Mountain
Mbah, who is also called grandfather Marijan, was known as Mount Merapi’s spiritual gatekeeper, according to BBC.
He was found dead in his house, which was settled around 2.5 miles from the summit.
The Javanese consider Mount Merapi a sacred, spiritual site. Marijan was appointed by the late sultan Hamengkubuwono IX to mediate with the spirits of the mountain.
According to BBC, Mt. Merapi erupted in 2006 and killed two people. In 1930, a powerful eruption wiped out 13 villages and killed more than a thousand people.
The United States’ Response To The Devastation
The United States has not sent troops or relief workers to the area as of now, but that might change in the near future.
According to BBC, President Barack Obama has spoken of his sorrow for the region and has offered US aid if needed.
President Obama spent some of his childhood in Indonesia.
The Ring Of Fire
Indonesia sits right on a hotspot in the Pacific ocean called the “Ring of Fire,” according to BBC.
The Ring of Fire is one of the world’s most active volcanic and earthquake prone zones, making it a dangerous place to settle.
In December of 2004, the Ring of Fire produced a 9.1 magnitude earthquake, triggering a tsunami in the Indian Ocean which killed 250,000 people in 13 countries including Indonesia.
Indonesia Tsunami: Death Toll Soars To 272 – BBC
Indonesians Try To Return To Homes On Mount Merapi – BBC