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Indonesia Seeks Answers After Tsunami Kills 463
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Thousands awoke from a second night on mosque floors or under makeshift shelters on Indonesia's Java island on Tuesday as authorities grappled with the aftermath of a tsunami that killed at least 463 people.

As efforts continued to find 235 people still missing, the media questioned why there was no warning ahead of Monday's killer waves despite regional efforts to set up early alert systems after the massive Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004.

The Jakarta Post said in an editorial that the country's National Disaster Management Coordination Board had done "nothing of note to increase people's preparedness for disasters".

"Preparedness also covers efforts to build effective early warning systems based on sophisticated information and communication technologies," the daily said.

Heavy equipment to search for bodies under the rubble was in place on Wednesday along parts of the 160-km (100-mile) stretch of south Java's coastline that was battered by waves after a 7.7-magnitude undersea earthquake.

Officals said there were four dead foreigners, including a Dutch national, a Swede, a Japanese and a Belgian.

More than 54,000 people were displaced from wrecked fishing villages and beach resorts, adding to the rehabilitation headache for the authorities after an earthquake that killed more than 5,700 people in central Java less than two months earlier.

Aid trucks started to arrive for the thousands who lost their homes or who, fearing further tsunamis, fled to hills above the coast.

Many found refuge under plastic-sheeting shelters while thousands camped out in mosques at the resort of Pangandaran and nearby Cilacap port, which were among the hardest-hit spots.

Soft-drink and snack seller Mukasih, 25, said the tsunami destroyed both her kiosk and her home.

"Suddenly the waves came in and knocked me over. I tried to swim but I couldn't," she told Reuters.

Mukasih suffered cuts and lacerations as the waves flung her and one of her children against a wall. She later found her husband and other child sheltering in a mosque.

Asked what her plans were, she said: "I don't know. I'm still thinking, but I don't want a shop on the beach again."

No tsunami warning system was set up for the southern coast of Java after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that left 230,000 killed or missing, including 170,000 in Indonesia.

Some officials considered the area, which lies some 270 km (170 miles) southeast of Jakarta, less likely to be hit by a tsunami than others in Indonesia.

"It turned out that our prediction was wrong," the Jakarta Post quoted Surono, a senior official of the country's earthquake agency, as saying. "Now, we believe that there are no tsunami-free areas along the southern coast of Java."

Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla told reporters the government would build an early warning system in Java and other areas in Indonesia in three years.

Indonesia's 17,000 islands sprawl along a belt of intense volcanic and seismic activity, part of what is called the "Pacific Ring of Fire".

(Chinadaily.com via agencies July 19, 2006)

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