Death Toll Rises in Double Disasters in Indonesia

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Rescuers in Indonesia are searching for the dead and injured after two devastating natural disasters in the country.

A tsunami and volcanic eruption both struck within 24 hours of each other this week. At least 272 people were killed, and 412 are still missing.

The tsunami was triggered by a magnitude 7.7 earthquake on the ocean floor Monday, followed by at least 14 aftershocks. The same fault line triggered the 2004 tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people.

The 10-foot wave swept away villages on remote islands, leaving wrecked homes and huge tracts of land underwater. The tsunami wave also caused a boat collision.

"They were caught by the wave, came surfing into us on the wave, hit us directly on the side of the boat, piercing a fuel tank," Daniel North, a crew member on the MV Midas yacht, said. "Midas caught fire immediately. In about 30 seconds, almost immediately, the captain gave the order to abandon ship and everyone got off the boat."

Officials say the death toll could go much higher as relief workers make their way to islands that have not yet been reached.

On Tuesday, 800 miles to the east, Mount Merapi -- the country's most troublesome volcano -- sent up searing ash clouds, killing at least 30 people.

One survivor said he tried to help another family, but hot ash prevented him from reaching them. He had to hold on to trees to get out of the area because of the burning ground.

While relief workers collected supplies to deliver to the disaster areas, Indonesian President Yudhoyono cut short a visit to Vietnam to deal with the tragedy.

Both natural disasters fell along Indonesia's portion of the 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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John Waage

John Waage

CBN News Sr. Editor

John Waage has covered politics and analyzed elections for CBN News since 1980, including primaries, conventions, and general elections. 

He also analyzes the convulsive politics of the Middle East.