Published December 28, 2004
BANDA ACEH, Indonesia – Authorities struggled to bury the dead and desperate residents looted stores Tuesday on Indonesia's (search) Sumatra Island, where an earthquake and tsunamis killed more than 27,000 people, the government said.
Meanwhile, a survivor from a remote coastal area of the island's worst-hit province of Aceh (search), said his entire town was under water and that starving families there were surviving on little more than coconuts.
As medicine and other emergency supplies began arriving in Aceh, scores of corpses lay uncollected on the streets, triggering fears of an outbreak of disease.
The Health Ministry said in a statement early Wednesday that 27,178 people have been killed on the island. It said this figure did not include data from districts on Sumatra's hard-hit western coast, including the town of Meulaboh (search) — meaning that the final death toll will almost certainly rise significantly.
Witnesses said it was not possible to reach Meulaboh and surrounding villages by road, and Metro TV broadcast aerial footage of thousands of homes in the region with their roofs ripped off and almost totally submerged by flood waters.