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MENTAWAI ISLANDS, Indonesia (AP) — Planes and helicopters packed with rescue workers and supplies landed for the first time Wednesday on remote Indonesian islands that were pounded by a 10-foot (three-meter) tsunami, sweeping away villages and leaving at least 272 people dead and more than 400 missing.
The first aerial surveys of the region revealed huge swaths of land underwater and the crumbled rubble of homes torn apart by the wave. One lay tilted, resting on the edge of its red roof, with tires and slabs of concrete piled up on the surrounding sand.
Two days after a powerful earthquake triggered the wave, the casualty count was still rising as rescuers and disaster officials finally reached the Mentawai island chain, which was closest to the epicenter and the worst hit. Bad weather had kept them away.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono cut short a state visit to Vietnam to deal with two major disasters that struck Indonesia in less than 24 hours. The country's most volatile volcano, Mount Merapi, 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) to the east, erupted at dusk Tuesday, sending up searing ash clouds and killing more than two dozen people.
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