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272 Indonesians die in wake of volcano, tsunami and earthquake

A villager walks past a buffalo killed in Mount Merapi eruption in Kinahrejo, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2010.
A villager walks past a buffalo killed in Mount Merapi eruption in Kinahrejo, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2010.
A rescue worker searches for victims of the Indonesia volcanic eruption (AP)
Burnt trees and grass surround a building damaged by the volcanic eruption in Indonesia (AP)
Two Australians who survived the tsunami arrive at a port in West Sumatra (AP)
A volunteer watches as Mount Merapi spews volcanic smoke in the background in Kaliadem, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2010. Indonesia's most volatile volcano started erupting Tuesday, after scientists warned that pressure building beneath its dome could trigger the most powerful eruption in years. (AP Photo/Gembong Nusantara)
Paramedics wheel a villager injured during Mount Merapi eruption at a hospital in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2010.Indonesia's most volatile volcano started erupting Tuesday, after scientists warned that pressure building beneath its dome could trigger the most powerful eruption in years. (AP Photo/Gembong Nusantara)
Rescue workers help villagers upon arrival at a temporary shelter after they were evacuated from their homes on the slope of Mount Merapi following its eruption in Pakem, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2010. Indonesia's most volatile volcano started erupting Tuesday, after scientists warned that pressure building beneath its dome could trigger the most powerful eruption in years. (AP Photo)
A villager watches Mount Merapi in Kaliadem, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2010. Indonesia's most volatile volcano started erupting Tuesday, after scientists warned that pressure building beneath its dome could trigger the most powerful eruption in years. (AP Photo)
Villagers carry their belongings as they are evacuated from their homes on the slope of Mount Merapi, in Pakem, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2010. Indonesia's most volatile volcano started erupting Tuesday, after scientists warned that pressure building beneath its dome could trigger the most powerful eruption in years. (AP Photo)
Paramedics carry a villager who is injured in Mount Merapi eruption into an ambulance to be brought to a hospital, in Pakem, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2010. Indonesia's most volatile volcano started erupting Tuesday, after scientists warned that pressure building beneath its dome could trigger the most powerful eruption in years. (AP Photo)
** EDS NOTE: GRAPHIC CONTENT ** A rescuer wheels a man heavily burned in the eruption of Mount Merapi at a hospital in Pakem, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2010. Indonesia's most volatile volcano started erupting Tuesday, after scientists warned that pressure building beneath its dome could trigger the most powerful eruption in years. (AP Photo/Slamet Riyadi)
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 26: Paramedics carry an ash covered villager as Mount Merapi erupts, at Kaliurang village in Sleman, on October 26, 2010 near Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Thousands have been ordered to evacuate as Mount Merapi, which last erupted in 2006, began to emit plumes of smoke and clouds of ash. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 26: A mother carries her son as she runs following the erupution of Mount Merapi, at Kaliurang village in Sleman, on October 26, 2010 near Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Thousands have been ordered to evacuate as Mount Merapi, which last erupted in 2006, began to emit plumes of smoke and clouds of ash. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 26: A police officer helps a villager step down from a truck after being evacuated from their village to Girikerto village in Sleman, on October 26, 2010 near Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Authorities will evacuate more than 11,000 villagers living on the slopes of the Mount Merapi volcano near Yogyakarta on Java after the alert status for an eruption was raised to the highest level. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 26: Police and voluenteers help villager step down from a truck after being evacuated from their village to Girikerto village in Sleman, on October 26, 2010 near Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Authorities will evacuate more than 11,000 villagers living on the slopes of the Mount Merapi volcano near Yogyakarta on Java after the alert status for an eruption was raised to the highest level. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 26: Villagers travel in a truck after being evacuated from their village to Girikerto village in Sleman, on October 26, 2010 near Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Authorities will evacuate more than 11,000 villagers living on the slopes of the Mount Merapi volcano near Yogyakarta on Java after the alert status for an eruption was raised to the highest level. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 26: Paramedics wheel a villager injured during the Mount Merapi eruption, at Kaliurang village in Sleman, on October 26, 2010 near Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Thousands have been ordered to evacuate as Mount Merapi, which last erupted in 2006, began to emit plumes of smoke and clouds of ash. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
Indonesians wade through a flooded street at the main business district in Jakarta, Indonesia, Monday, Oct. 25, 2010. About an hour of torrential rain triggered knee-high floods on the main streets of the capital and caused heavy traffic jams. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)
An Indonesian police officer helps an elderly to board a truck to evacuate his home on the slope of Mount Merapi in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Monday, Oct. 25, 2010. Indonesia warned Monday that its most volatile volcano could erupt at any time and started evacuating some of the thousands of villagers living on the mountain's slope. (AP Photo/Slamet Riyadi)
A village that was hit by pyroclastic flows from Mount Merapi eruption is pictured in Kinahrejo, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2010. A volcanic eruption and a tsunami killed scores of people hundreds of miles apart in Indonesia, spasms from the Pacific "Ring of Fire," which spawns disasters from deep within the Earth. (AP Photo/Trisnadi)
A motorcycle lies covered by volcanic ash at a village that is hit by pyroclastic flows from Mount Merapi eruption in Kaliadem, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2010. A volcanic eruption and a tsunami killed scores of people hundreds of miles apart in Indonesia, spasms from the Pacific "Ring of Fire," which spawns disasters from deep within the Earth. (AP Photo/Slamet Riyadi)
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 26: Paramedics wheel an ash covered villager on a stretcher as Mount Merapi erupts, at Kaliurang village in Sleman, on October 26, 2010 near Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Thousands have been ordered to evacuate as Mount Merapi, which last erupted in 2006, began to emit plumes of smoke and clouds of ash. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 26: A car is covered with ash from the erupting Mount Merapi volcano at Kaliurang village in Sleman, on October 26, 2010 near Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Thousands have been ordered to evacuate as Mount Merapi, which last erupted in 2006, began to emit plumes of smoke and clouds of ash. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 26: A car is covered with ash from the erupting Mount Merapi volcano at Kaliurang village in Sleman, on October 26, 2010 near Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Thousands have been ordered to evacuate as Mount Merapi, which last erupted in 2006, began to emit plumes of smoke and clouds of ash. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 26: Indonesian soldiers stand guard on a street covered by ash from the erupting Mount Merapi volcano, at Kaliurang village in Sleman, on October 26, 2010 near Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Thousands have been ordered to evacuate as Mount Merapi, which last erupted in 2006, began to emit plumes of smoke and clouds of ash. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 26: Indonesian soldiers stand guard on a street covered by ash from the erupting Mount Merapi volcano, at Kaliurang village in Sleman, on October 26, 2010 near Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Thousands have been ordered to evacuate as Mount Merapi, which last erupted in 2006, began to emit plumes of smoke and clouds of ash. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 26: A man wears a face mask as ash from the erupting Mount Merapi volcano blankets a street, at Kaliurang village in Sleman, on October 26, 2010 near Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Thousands have been ordered to evacuate as Mount Merapi, which last erupted in 2006, began to emit plumes of smoke and clouds of ash. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 26: A car is covered with ash from the erupting Mount Merapi volcano at Kaliurang village in Sleman, on October 26, 2010 near Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Thousands have been ordered to evacuate as Mount Merapi, which last erupted in 2006, began to emit plumes of smoke and clouds of ash. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 26: A car is covered with ash from the erupting Mount Merapi volcano at Kaliurang village in Sleman, on October 26, 2010 near Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Thousands have been ordered to evacuate as Mount Merapi, which last erupted in 2006, began to emit plumes of smoke and clouds of ash. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 26: A motorcycle rides up a street, blanketed in ash from the erupting Mount Merapi volcano, at Kaliurang village in Sleman, on October 26, 2010 near Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Thousands have been ordered to evacuate as Mount Merapi, which last erupted in 2006, began to emit plumes of smoke and clouds of ash. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 26: Indonesia men stand on a street covered by ash from the erupting Mount Merapi volcano, at Kaliurang village in Sleman, on October 26, 2010 near Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Thousands have been ordered to evacuate as Mount Merapi, which last erupted in 2006, began to emit plumes of smoke and clouds of ash. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 26: A man wears a face mask as ash from the erupting Mount Merapi volcano blankets a street, at Kaliurang village in Sleman, on October 26, 2010 near Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Thousands have been ordered to evacuate as Mount Merapi, which last erupted in 2006, began to emit plumes of smoke and clouds of ash. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 26: A mother carries her son as she runs following the erupution of Mount Merapi, at Kaliurang village in Sleman, on October 26, 2010 near Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Thousands have been ordered to evacuate as Mount Merapi, which last erupted in 2006, began to emit plumes of smoke and clouds of ash. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 26: Paramedics wheel a villager injured during the Mount Merapi eruption, at Kaliurang village in Sleman, on October 26, 2010 near Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Thousands have been ordered to evacuate as Mount Merapi, which last erupted in 2006, began to emit plumes of smoke and clouds of ash. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)

The death toll from an earthquake and killer tsunami in Indonesia climbed to 272 today as helicopters with rescuers and emergency supplies finally reached the remote islands.



The estimated number of casualties rose to 272 dead and 412 missing, up from 154 earlier in the day, said disaster official Ade Edward.

The first aerial surveys of the region revealed huge swathes of land underwater and the crumbled rubble of homes torn apart by the wave.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono cut short a state visit to Vietnam to travel to the site.

Meanwhile rescuers scoured the slopes of Indonesia's most volatile volcano for survivors today after it was rocked by an eruption which killed at least 30 people, including an old man who refused to abandon his ceremonial post as caretaker of the mountain's spirits.

Authorities warned the thousands who fled Mount Merapi's wrath not to return during today's lull in volcanic activity, but some villagers were desperate to check on crops and possessions left behind.

Two days after a powerful earthquake triggered the wave, the casualty count was still rising as rescuers and disaster officials finally reached the Mentawai island chain, which was closest to the epicentre and the worst hit. Bad weather had kept them away.

It was the second major disaster to strike Indonesia in less than 24 hours. The country's most volatile volcano, Mount Merapi, 800 miles (1,300 kilometres) to the east, erupted at dusk on Tuesday, sending up searing ash clouds.

Both events 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.

Disaster officials were still trying to reach more than a dozen villages on the Mentawais - a popular surfer's destination that is usually reachable only by a 12-hour boat ride.

The 7.7-magnitude quake that struck late on Monday just 13 miles (20 kilometres) beneath the ocean floor was followed by at least 14 aftershocks, the largest measuring 6.2.

The latest blast from the volcano last night eased pressure that had been building up behind a lava dome perched on the crater. But experts warned the dome could still collapse, causing an avalanche of the blistering gas and debris trapped beneath it.

"It's a little calmer today," said Surono, the chief of the Centre for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation. "No hot clouds, no rumbling. But a lot of energy is pent up back there. There's no telling what's next."

Mount Merapi, which translates as "Fire Mountain," has erupted many times over the last 200 years. In 1994, 60 people were killed.

More than 11,000 people live on its fertile slopes.

A doctor at a local hospital said the death toll climbed to 30 and 17 had been taken to hospital, mostly with burns, respiratory problems and other injuries.

Among the dead was Maridjan, an 83-year-old man who had been entrusted by a highly respected late king to watch over the volcano's spirits.

"We found his body," said Suseno, a rescue worker, amid reports that the old man was found in the position of praying, kneeling face-down on the floor.

Maridjan, who for years led ceremonies in which rice and flowers were thrown into the crater to appease spirits, has angered officials in the past by refusing to evacuate even during eruptions.

They accused him of setting a wrong example, stopping other villagers from leaving, but Maridjan always said he would only go if he got a sign from the long-dead king who appointed him.

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