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Tsunami aid effort stalled

Relief workers in Indonesia were this week battling heavy rains and limited transport links to reach victims of last month’s earthquake and tsunami.

They are attempting to reach the remote Mentawai islands, where a tsunami was triggered by a 7.7 magnitude earthquake on 25 October. It is so far believed to have killed 415 people, and left 128 missing.

Transport is the biggest challenge to the relief effort, because the disaster occurred in a coastal area that had no road access.

Aid agencies warned that an immediate assessment of the safety of damaged buildings was necessary.

International relief charity RedR said that there was an “urgent need” to assess the structural stability of buildings left standing after the earthquake and tsunami wave. There was also the challenge of reconstructing damaged buildings.

“My understanding is that many of the coastal villages consisted of non-engineered buildings that have been largely swept away,” said RedR chairman Robert Hodgson.

“The people affected by this disaster will need help to reconstruct their homes using appropriate techniques that will give them resilience to similar future events, and there is a lot of experience of this type of reconstruction programme since the 2004 tsunami and subsequent earthquakes in Sumatra.

“The fear of a recurrent wave may deter people from rebuilding near the water’s edge, as it did in Sri Lanka in 2005, and assessments of where best to place new buildings will need to be made,” he added.

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