Tsunami Death Toll Rises to 154

PADANG, Indonesia – Navy ships packed with medicine and food and rescuers in helicopters headed Wednesday to remote Indonesian islands that were pounded by a 10-foot (3-meter) tsunami, sweeping away villages and killing at least 154 people.

Rough seas and bad weather have hampered relief operations, leaving villagers to fend for themselves for nearly two days. With not enough people to dig graves, corpses littered beaches and roads, according to district chief, Edison Salelo Baja.

Fisherman were scouring waters in search of survivors.

The fault line that ruptured Monday on Sumatra island’s coast also caused the 2004 quake and monster Indian Ocean tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries.

Disaster officials have been unable so far to reach many of the villages on the hardest hit Mentawai islands — a popular surfer’s destination that is usually reachable only by a 12-hour boat ride. But they were preparing for the worst Wednesday.

Hundreds of body bags were being sent to the scene, said Mujiharto, who heads the Health Ministry’s crisis center.

Indonesia was dealing with two major disasters this week. The country’s most volatile volcano, Mount Merapi, 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) to the east, started to erupt at dusk Tuesday as scientists warned that pressure building beneath its lava dome could trigger one of the most powerful blasts in years. At least 28 people were killed.

The two disasters were not related, but they both fell along Indonesia’s portion of the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, a series of fault lines that are prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity stretching from the Western Hemisphere through Japan and Southeast Asia.

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