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Indonesia tsunami kills 370; toll expected to rise
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On nearby Pagai Utara island, more than 100 survivors crowded into a makeshift medical center in the main town of Sikakap. Some still wept for lost loved ones as they lay on straw mats or sat on the floor, waiting for medics to treat injuries including broken limbs and cuts.
Fisherman Joni Sageru, 30, recalled being jolted awake by the quake and running outside to hear screams to run to higher ground on his island of Pagai Selaton.
“First, we saw sea water recede far away, then when it returned, it was like a big wall running toward our village,” Mr. Sageru said. “Suddenly trees, houses and all things in the village were sucked into the sea and nothing was left.”
Officials questioned whether the tsunami warning system had functioned properly. The chief of Indonesia’s Meteorology and Geophysic Agency, Fauzi, said the special buoys that detect sudden changes in water level broke down last month because of inexperienced operators and poor maintenance.
However, Joern Lauterjung, head of the German-Indonesia Tsunami Early Warning Project for the Potsdam-based GeoForschungs Zentrum, said a warning did go out five minutes after the quake — but the tsunami hit so fast no one was warned in time.
“The early warning system worked very well — it can be verified,” he said.
He added that only one sensor of 300 had not been working, and had no effect on the system’s operation.
About 800 miles to the east of the tsunami zone, Mount Merapi in central Java began spewing hot clouds of ash again at around 4:30 p.m. Thursday, according to the Indonesian volcanology agency Subandriyo.
Most residents have been evacuated from the area. It was unclear whether the new activity was a sign of another major blast to come. Tuesday’s eruption killed at least 33 people and injured 17, said Agustinus, a doctor at the local health department.
Residents from the hardest-hit villages of Kinahrejo, Ngrangkah, and Kaliadem — which were decimated in Tuesday’s blast — crammed into refugee camps. Officials brought surviving cows, buffalo and goats down the mountain so that villagers wouldn’t try to go home to check on their livestock.
Thousands attended a mass burial for 26 of the victims six miles from the mountain’s base. They included family and friends, who wept and hugged one another as bodies were lowered into the grave in rows.
Among the dead was a revered elder who had refused to leave his ceremonial post as caretaker of the mountain’s spirits. He was buried in a separate funeral Thursday.___
Associated Press writers Achmad Ibrahim in the Mentawai islands, Slamet Riyadi at Mount Merapi and Irwan Firdaus in Jakarta contributed to this report.
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