Missing Australians Found Alive

In Asia, Australasia, Earthquakes & Tsunamis, News Headlines

A group of nine Australians missing after a deadly tsunami hit the west coast of Indonesia have been found alive and well.

At least 108 people have been killed and more than 500 are missing after a powerful earthquake triggered the wave.

The 7.7-magnitude quake struck in the Mentawai Islands area west of Sumatra late on Monday, generating waves as high as three metres that swept away 10 villages, officials said.

The Australians were on board a boat operated by Sumatran Surfariis, which is believed to have been close to the area where the quake struck.

Among those aboard was former Pittwater MP Alex McTaggart and seven friends who flew to the area for a surfing holiday.

The skipper of their charter boat was Chris Scurrah, from Mount Eliza, Victoria.

Hendri Dori Satoko, a lawmaker in the Mentawai Islands, told MetroTV: “Our latest data from crisis centre showed that 108 people have been killed and 502 are still missing.”

Disaster Management Agency spokesman Agolo Suparto added: “Ten villages have been swept away by the tsunami.”

Most buildings in the coastal village of Betu Monga were destroyed, 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 said.

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

Hardimansyah, who has only one name, said 80 per cent of the houses in the area were damaged and food supplies were low.

‘Wiped out’

The Macaronis surfing resort on North Pagai island was also hit. In an official press release, World Surfaris said Macaronis had “experienced a level of devastation that has rendered the resort inoperable”.

Reports via Facebook from a surfer at the resort suggested that all villas had been “wiped out” by the tsunami.

A report posted on the Surfaid website by one of the aid organisation’s staff members described a three-metre-high tsunami crashing through the resort and boats knocking together, then bursting into flames.

Guests and crew from one boat were washed into the jungle and took more than an hour to find their way back to the beach, the staff member, Tom Plummer, said.

“There was a lot of debris floating in the water, including bar stools and other pieces of furniture from Macaronis Resort,” he said.

Satoko, head of the regional government in the affected area, told Metro TV that some of the missing may have taken refuge on higher ground.

Local police on the Mentawai islands 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, said two bodies had been found near Sipora island and that several people were still missing.

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

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.

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