30/03/2005

Britons reported missing in Indonesia quake

Around 10 Britons have been reported as missing in the earthquake, which hit Indonesia on Monday, the Foreign Office has stated.

The Foreign Office said that they were investigating the reports, but stressed that the people involved may not have been caught up in the quake.

The 8.7 magnitude earthquake struck the island of Nias off the western coast of Sumatra in Indonesia on Monday. It is estimated that at least 1,000 people have been killed in the disaster, although Indonesia's vice president, Yusef Kalla, expressed fears that the death toll could rise to 2,000.

Nias has reportedly suffered massive devastation caused by Monday's earthquake. It has been reported that over 80% of the buildings on the island had been destroyed or rendered uninhabitable. Some reports have also indicated that as many as 20,000 people have been left homeless as a result of the disaster, with 5,000 of those people reported in Gunungsitoli, the island's capital, alone.

A number of aid agencies are already organising help for the stricken island. It has been reported that specialist disaster teams from the United Nations have arrived in Nias and Simeulue, south of Sumatra, where almost half of the buildings are reportedly damaged. The UN teams will be expected to conduct an initial humanitarian assessment and help co-ordinate relief efforts.

Oxfam has also announced plans to provide supplies, including water tanks, tap stands, 4,000 jerry cans, chlorine for water purification, tents, torches, and cooking utensils. Oxfam staff working in Gunungsitoli have said that the town's water supplies had failed as a result of the earthquake. They also said that the electricity grid had collapsed and that the pumps that operated the water system were no longer working. The Oxfam workers said that this had left around 20,000 people without water.

Oxfam also reported that roads had collapsed and said that were reports of food shortages.

The Foreign Office has warned any British travellers in the affected areas to stay alert, monitor the media and promptly take any precautions recommended by the local authorities or other reliable local sources. Travellers who are intending to travel to the region are advised to check with their travel agents or tour operators before beginning any journeys.

(KMcA/SP)

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