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Aid workers battle storms to help victims of tsunami

By Kristen Gelineau
Associated Press / October 30, 2010

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MENTAWAI ISLANDS, Indonesia — A group of private aid workers battled fierce swells and driving rain that kept most craft on shore yesterday, managing to deliver food and other supplies to desperate survivors on the islands hardest hit by a tsunami that killed more than 400 people.

Government agencies pulled back boats and helicopters that had been ferrying aid to the most distant corners of the Mentawai islands and instead resorted to air-dropping boxes of aid from planes.

On a borrowed 75-foot cruiser, aid workers faced rough seas, sheets of rain, and miserable seasickness to bring noodles, sardines, and sleeping mats to villages that have not received any help since Monday’s earthquake.

In one village, most people were still huddling in a church in the hills, too afraid to come down even to get the aid.

Dozens of injured survivors of the tsunami, meanwhile, languished at an overwhelmed hospital yesterday.

“We need doctors, specialists,’’ said Anputra, a nurse at the tiny hospital in Pagai Utara — one of the four main islands in the Mentawai chain slammed by the tsunami, which was triggered by a 7.7-magnitude earthquake.

The death toll from the earthquake and the tsunami it spawned rose to 408 yesterday as officials found more bodies, and 303 people were still missing and feared swept out to sea, said Agus Prayitno of the West Sumatra provincial disaster management center.

Officials say 13,000 survivors on the islands are homeless. Many were sorely in need of help, which the government was struggling to deliver.

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