Image: Relatives sprinkle flower petals over coffins in Sidorejo, Indonesia
Adek Berry  /  AFP - Getty Images
Relatives sprinkle flower petals over the coffins of the victims of the Mount Merapi eruption during a mass funeral in Sidorejo, Indonesia, on Thursday.
msnbc.com news services
updated 10/29/2010 4:11:46 AM ET 2010-10-29T08:11:46

The fisherman was jolted awake by the powerful earthquake and ran with his screaming neighbors to high ground. He said they watched as the sea first receded and then came roaring back "like a big wall" that swept away their entire village.

"Suddenly trees, houses and all things in the village were sucked into the sea and nothing was left," Joni Sageru recalled Thursday in one of the first survivor accounts of this week's tsunami that slammed into islands off western Indonesia.

The death toll rose to 370 as officials found more bodies, although hundreds of people remained missing. Harmensyah, head of the West Sumatra provincial disaster management center, said rescue teams "believe many, many of the bodies were swept to sea."

Along with the 33 people killed by a volcano that erupted Tuesday more than 800 miles to the east in central Java, the number of dead from the twin disasters has now topped 400. Mount Merapi began rumbling again Thursday after a lull that allowed mourners to hold a mass burial for its victims. There were no reports of new injuries or damage.

The catastrophes struck within 24 hours in different parts of the seismically active country, severely testing Indonesia's emergency response network.

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Aid workers trickling into the remote region found giant chunks of coral and rocks in places where homes once stood. Huge swaths of land were submerged. Swollen corpses dotted roads and beaches.

In a rare bright spot, an 18-month-old baby was found alive Wednesday in a clump of trees on Pagai Selatan — the same island where the 30-year-old Sageru lived. Relief coordinator Harmensyah said a 10-year-old boy found the toddler whose parents are both dead.

More than 100 survivors crowded a makeshift medical center in the main town of Sikakap on Pagai Utara — one of the four main islands in the Mentawai chain located between Sumatra and the Indian Ocean.

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Some still wept for lost loved ones as they lay on straw mats or sat on the floor, waiting for medics to treat injuries such as cuts and broken limbs. Outside, some rescuers wore face masks as they wrapped corpses in black body bags.

A young woman named Adek sobbed uncontrollably as she tried to talk about her year-old baby who was washed away. "Oh, don't ask me again," she said, wiping her tears and turning away.

One of the hardest hit areas with 65 dead was the village of Pro Rogat, on Pagai Seatandug island.

Villagers there huddled under tarps in the rain and told how many people who had fled to the hills were now too afraid to return home.

Mud and palm fronds covered the body of the village's 60-year-old pastor, Simorangkir. He lay on the ground, partially zipped into a body bag. Police and relatives took turns pushing a shovel into the sodden dirt next to him for his grave.

Interactive: Anatomy of a volcano

His 28-year-old grandson, Rio, traveled by boat to Pro Rogat from his home on a nearby island to check on his relatives after the quake and tsunami. He said he was picking through the wreckage when someone cried out that he had found a body.

Rio walked over and saw his dead grandfather partially buried under several toppled palm trees.

"Everybody here is so sad," Rio said, as relatives prepared to lay his grandfather in the grave.

Officials say a multimillion-dollar tsunami warning system that uses buoys to detect sudden changes in water levels broke down a month ago because it was not being properly maintained. The system was installed after a monster 2004 quake and tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries.

A German official at the project disputed there was a breakdown, saying Monday's 7.7-magnitude quake's epicenter was too close to the Mentawai islands for residents to get the warning before the killer wave hit.

"The early warning system worked very well — it can be verified," said Joern Lauterjung, head of the German-Indonesia Tsunami Early Warning Project for the Potsdam-based GeoForschungs Zentrum. He added that only one sensor of 300 had not been working and said that had no effect on the system's operation.

At the Mount Merapi volcano, hot clouds of ash spewed from the mountain around 4:30 p.m. Thursday, according to the Indonesian volcanology agency Subandriyo.

It was unclear whether the new activity was a sign of another major blast to come.

Residents from Kinahrejo, Ngrangkah and Kaliadem — villages that were devastated in Tuesday's blast — crammed into refugee camps. Officials brought cows, buffalo and goats down the mountain so that villagers wouldn't try to go home to check on their livestock.

Thousands attended a mass burial for 26 of the victims six miles from the base of the volcano. Family and friends wept and hugged one another as the bodies were lowered into the grave in rows.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Video: Tsunami warning system failed

Photos: Tsunami

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  1. Survivors Markus, left, and his sister Lisna cry after finding their mother's body in Indonesia's tsunami-devastated Monte village on Friday, Oct. 29. A 10-foot wave struck the Mentawai islands Monday just minutes after a massive earthquake offshore, killing more than 400 and destroying hundreds of homes in 20 villages. (Mast Irham / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A two-month-old tsunami survivor recovers at a medical center in Sikakap, Indonesia, on Oct. 29. The infant was found alive inside a storm drain. His parents are missing. (Mast Irham / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Residents salvage wood from the ruins of their home in Munte, Indonesia, that was destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami. Bad weather and a shortage of boats were hampering efforts to get tons of food, water and blankets to the remote islands which were hardest hit by the giant wave. (Crack Palinggi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Tsunami survivors Sumardi, 12, and his sister Ancelina, 17, sit inside a makeshift hospital at a church in Sikakap, Indonesia, on Oct. 29. (Mast Irham / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Matt George, a U.S. doctor attached to a NGO, treats survivors of the earthquake and tsunami in Munte on Oct. 29. (Crack Palinggi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Tsunami survivors visit the remains of their home in Pororogat on Oct. 28. Tsunami alerts were sounded by scientists within minutes of the earthquake, but some villages have no telephone lines, making it extremely difficult for a warning to get through in time. (Muhammad Fadli / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. This aerial view shows the tsunami-devastated area in South Pagai. Indonesia sits amid the Pacific "Ring of Fire," a cluster of fault lines prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity. (Abror Rizki / Sespri via EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Survivors gather under the roof of a destroyed house in the tsunami-devastated village of Pororogat on Oct. 28. (Mast Irham / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Rescuers carry the body of a tsunami victim in Pororogat on Oct. 28. (Muhammad Fadli / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Tsunami survivors cry as they learn that their relatives were found dead on Oct. 28. (Muhammad Fadli / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Medical workers take care of wounded victims on North Pagai island on Oct. 28. (Bay Ismoyo / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Survivors walk through the tsunami-devastated village of Pororogat on Oct. 28. (Mast Irham / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. This aerial photograph taken on Oct. 27 shows a village area on North Pegai that was swept away by the tsunami. (Kris Hadiyanto / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Indonesian men stand near the covered bodies of tsunami victims in Bosua on Oct. 27. (Imran Rusli / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. This aerial view shows a devastated village on Oct. 27, two days after a tsunami hit the island of Pagai. (Mast Irham / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Survivors take shelter in a tent on Oct. 28 after their village on Pagai island was hit by a tsunami. (Achmad Ibrahim / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: Tsunami aftermath
    Mast Irham / EPA
    Above: Slideshow (16) Indonesian tsunami - Tsunami
  2. Image: Mount Merapi volcano spews ash as a villager collects her valuables from the ruins of her house at Kali Tengah village in Sleman
    Sigit Pamungkas / Reuters
    Slideshow (39) Indonesian tsunami - Volcano erupts

Interactive: Mount Merapi

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