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updated 10/30/2010 12:44:58 AM ET 2010-10-30T04:44:58

A group of private aid workers battled fierce swells and driving rain that kept most craft on shore, managing to deliver food and other supplies to desperate survivors on the islands hardest hit by a tsunami that killed at least 413 people.

Hundreds of miles (kilometers) to the east, a volcano that has claimed 36 lives in recent days erupted again early Saturday, temporarily forcing shut an airport. Plumes of heavy gray ash poured from the crater's mouth as rocks and debris cascaded down its slopes.

The twin catastrophes, striking on different ends of the seismically active country this week, have severely tested Indonesia's emergency response network.

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

On a borrowed 75-foot (24-meter) cruiser, aid workers faced rough seas and sheets of rain — plus 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.

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Dozens of injured survivors of the tsunami, meanwhile, languished at an overwhelmed hospital. They lay on mats or the bare floor as rainwater dripped onto them from holes in the ceiling and intravenous tubes hung from plastic ropes strung from the rafters.

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

Inside the tiny hospital, a man cradled his screaming son as staff tended to the child's broken arm. The 35-year-old described how his two other young children were ripped from his embrace by the towering wave and sucked out to sea.

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Health workers also cared for a newly orphaned 2-month-old boy found in a storm drain. The infant, with cuts on his face, blinked sleepily in a crib. Hospital workers named him Imanual Tegar. Tegar means "tough" in Indonesian.

The toll from the earthquake and the tsunami it spawned rose to 413 on Saturday as officials found more bodies, and 163 people were still missing and feared swept out to sea, said Suryadi, a Crisis Center official.

He said 23,000 survivors on the islands are homeless. Many were sorely in need of help, which the government was struggling to deliver.

While tons of aid has reached the islands' main towns, many farther-flung villages are accessible only by foot or sea because roads are too old or damaged for large trucks. Storms, however, have made the waters too dangerous for small boats, West Sumatra Gov. Irwan Prayitno told reporters. Even when seas calm, another official said the government hasn't been able to gather enough boats to address the scale of the disaster, making do with just a few dozen wooden boats with outboard motors.

Despite the challenges, a group of 50 private aid workers did set out by sea in a 75-foot (24-meter) vessel Friday for villages along the southern coast of South Pagai.

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Soon after the wave-breaking boat set out, it became apparent why other vessels had been kept back. Nearly all the 50 relief workers on board were ill from the pounding waves and the deck had to be hosed off at one point to clear vomit.

Still, the mission was able to bring the first help to the village of Limu, where dozens of houses were destroyed, some swept off their foundations, and dead chickens littered the shoreline.

Villagers eagerly grabbed the boxes of sardines and noodles and the sleeping mats the workers delivered, though many were too terrified to come down to the beach. There were no deaths in Limu, but one person was injured.

Government teams also delivered food — mostly instant noodles — by dropping it out of Hercules planes. Local television footage showed survivors running to pick up the boxes.

Interactive: Anatomy of a volcano

Four days after the tsunami crashed into the Mentawai islands off Sumatra, details of survivors' misery and new accounts of the terrifying moments when the wave struck were still trickling out from the area, which was cut off by rough seas for nearly two days after the tsunami.

A group of surfers told of watching in horror as a roaring wall of water crossed a lagoon and slammed into their three-story thatch-roofed resort. The power of the wave shook the building so hard they feared it would collapse. All 27 people at the resort survived — five of them by clinging to trees.

"It was noise and chaos. You can hear the water coming, coming, coming," Chilean surfer and videographer Sebastian Carvallo said. "And then before the second wave hit the building, everyone was, like, screaming and when the wave hit the building, you could only hear people praying."

Parts of an early warning system installed after a huge 2004 tsunami killed more than 226,000 people had been stolen but overall the system still worked, said the head of the meteorological agency, Sri Woro Harijono.

"Yes, some of our sensors disappear because they are stolen, such as seismographs and solar cells," she said. "But it is just one or three sensors out of 100. The system works fine."

Local media reported that parts of the tsunami early warning system had not worked properly because they had been vandalized or removed, while Metro TV broadcast footage of villagers questioning the effectiveness of the warning system.

"This has also been reported to the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology but we also need to make sure this information is verified properly," said Pasha.

On the country's main island of Java, meanwhile, the Mount Merapi volcano erupted just after midnight Saturday, said Surono, the chief of Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation.

A 50-year-old woman died during a chaotic evacuation of villagers who have slowly returned to their homes on the slopes, bringing the toll since the first big blast Tuesday to 36, according to the Indonesian Red Cross.

Saturday's powerful 21-minute eruption briefly forced shut an airport in the nearby city of Yogyakarta, 12 miles (20 kilometers) south of the volcano.

"We were worried about visibility and thick dust that piled up on the south of the runway," said Naelendra, an airport official. "But things are back to normal now."

The number of dead from the two disasters, which struck within 24 hours of each other, has now reached 449.

At least 47,000 people who live around Mount Merapi are staying in government camps or with friends and relatives, the National Disaster Management Agency said.

The volcano's activity appeared to be easing pressure behind a lava dome that has formed in the crater, said Safari Dwiyono, a scientist who has been monitoring Merapi for 15 years.

"If the energy continues to release little by little like this, it reduces the chances of having a bigger, powerful eruption," he said.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Video: Tsunami baby found alive in storm drain

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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