The misery deepened in Southeast Asia as Indonesian officials announced that the country's death toll from Wednesday's massive earthquake would likely double after a dreadful discovery: Authorities believe at least 400 guests at a communal wedding were buried under a mountain of mud and rocks after a 7.6 earthquake devastated a cluster of hillside villages.
Rustam Pakaya, the head of Indonesia's Health Ministry crisis center described the scene: "They were sucked 30 meters [100 feet] deep into the earth," he said. "Even the mosque's minaret, taller than 20 meters [65 feet], disappeared." The hillside disaster brings Indonesia's death toll to at least 1,300, though that number will likely swell. Officials say as many as 3,000 people are missing.
Finding those people may take weeks. The earthquake may have flattened at least 30,000 homes, schools, hospitals, and mosques. Many areas remain inaccessible to rescue and aid workers. World Vision reported that communication lines were down to many areas, as the organization prepped assessment teams to reach as many survivors as possible.
North of Indonesia, misery is engulfing Vietnam and the Philippines, with both nations reeling from a monstrous typhoon that swept through the region last week. The storm left hundreds dead and most of Manila, the Philippine capital city, submerged under water. Now, a new worry: Philippine authorities evacuated thousands of people on the coast as another typhoon bears down on the country. Forecasters say the storm is packing 132 mph winds, and will likely make landfall Saturday.
Several Christian groups are scrambling to provide aid in the region: Jeff Anderson of Action International Ministries-a missions organization with some three-dozen workers in the Philippines-reported from Manila that the city and surrounding regions are "in a state of calamity." Anderson is directing the ministry's response from his family's 10th-floor apartment, which was spared flooding. Anderson says his groups is assessing needs and raising funds for relief supplies.
Samaritan's Purse also has a team in Manila and plans to distribute food parcels to 30,000 people, while as many as 150,000 people remain displaced in the country. The ministry reported yesterday that workers had already distributed food items to an evacuation center and to people living near a garbage dump, where they normally rummage for food.
The North Carolina-based ministry is also aiding victims in the South Pacific islands of Samoa, where an earthquake-induced tsunami struck the islands on Tuesday, killing at least 170 people. Hawaiian National Guard troops deployed to American Samoa to aid with recovery and rescue efforts. An 8.0 undersea earthquake some 125 miles off the islands' coastlines triggered the tsunami that produced a wall of water some 35 feet high.