Volunteers carry the body of a victim of the Mount Merapi eruption at Kinarrejo village in Sleman, near the ancient city of Yogyakarta, October 27, 2010. One of Indonesia's most dangerous volcanoes has killed at least 15 people since it began erupting, forcing thousands to flee mountain villages and blanketing nearby villages and towns in ash, witnesses said on Wednesday. Credits: REUTERS/Beawiharta

Volunteers carry the body of a victim of the Mount Merapi eruption at Kinarrejo village in Sleman, near the ancient city of Yogyakarta, October 27, 2010. One of Indonesia’s most dangerous volcanoes has killed at least 15 people since it began erupting, forcing thousands to flee mountain villages and blanketing nearby villages and towns in ash, witnesses said on Wednesday.
Credits: REUTERS/Beawiharta

A Caritas team is on its way to the Indonesian island of Mentawai after a tsunami left hundreds of people dead and many missing.

The team are taking tarpaulins, blankets, warm clothes and water containers for the islanders who have lost their homes.

A 7.7 magnitude earthquake struck the island to the northwest of the capital Jakarta two days ago. The earthquake caused a 3-metre high tsunami which swept away several villages.

“The people on Mentawai live close to the seashore. This has made many of them very vulnerable in the face of this tsunami,” said Fr Sigit Pramudji, Head of Caritas Indonesia (known locally as Karina).

Matteo Amigoni, Country Representative in Indonesia for Caritas Italy, said bad weather means the 16-hour crossing from the mainland to the island is very difficult. It creates a big logistical challenge in assessing the needs of people and in providing aid.

In the meantime, Caritas has sent another team to help communities around the Mount Merapi volcano. It erupted yesterday on the island of Java.

Toxic gas and molten lava have left communities in the area at risk of breathing difficulties and health problems.

Caritas is taking face masks, tarpaulins and warm clothes. Around 13,000 people have been evacuated from the area around the volcano.

Caritas has been working with communities to prepare plans for disasters.

Indonesia is very vulnerable to seismic changes. A massive earthquake hit Padang, near to Mentawai, one year ago. Over 1,200 people died and many more were injured and made homeless.

The country has had many more smaller earthquakes over the past year. It was hard hit by the 2004 tsunami.

For more information, please contact Michelle Hough on +39 06 69879721/+39 334 2344136 or hough@caritas.va