Tsunami Latest: At Least 160 Missing

JAKARTA (Reuters) – At least 160 people, mostly women and children, are missing from an Indonesian village that was pounded by an enormous wave after an earthquake off the coast of Sumatra caused a local tsunami, officials said on Tuesday.

The 7.5 magnitude quake hit 78 km west of South Pagai in the Mentawai islands late Monday and destroyed most buildings in the coastal village of Betu Monga, said Hardimansyah, an official with the regional branch of the Department of Fisheries.

“Of the 200 people living in that village, only 40 have been found. 160 are still missing, mostly women and children,” he told Reuters by phone.

“We have people reporting to the security post here that they could not hold onto their children, that they were swept away. A lot of people are crying.”

Hardimansyah, who has only one name, said in the nearby village of Malakopa, at least one person was confirmed dead and two others missing. He said 80 percent of the houses in the area were damaged and food supplies were low.

Local police were searching for missing people and setting up emergency posts, said Ronald, a police officer at Sikakap district police station.

“We are predicting that people will need food supplies and shelter. The rain is coming down very hard, the wind is very strong,” he said.

Mudjiarto, the head of the disaster response unit at the Health Ministry, told Reuters that two bodies had been found near Sipora island and that several people were still missing.

In South Pagai island, waves penetrated about 600 meters into coastal villages, while in North Pagai island, waves reached to the roof of local houses, he said.

A tourist boat carrying between eight and 10 Australians has been out of radio contact since the quake occurred, according to a statement issued by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said in an email on Monday that a significant tsunami was created by the quake.

In December 2004, a tsunami caused by an earthquake of more than 9 magnitude off Sumatra killed more than 226,000 people. It was the deadliest tsunami on record.

(Reporting by Sunanda Creagh and Telly Nathalia; Editing by Andrew Marshall)

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