Royal condolences to Indonesian president
By Azlan Othman

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam has consented to send his condolences to Dr Hj Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of the Republic of Indonesia following the natural disaster in West Sumatra and Central Java.

His Majesty expressed his sadness on the losses of life and damage to property caused by the natural disaster.

The monarch on behalf of His Majesty's Government and the people of Brunei Darussalam sent his sympathy and condolences to the Indonesian President and the people especially the bereaved families of the victims.

Meanwhile, agencies reported the toll from a tsunami which smashed into Indonesia rose sharply past 300 on Wednesday as rescuers reached the remote islands hit hardest by the disaster and found scenes of devastation.

At least 10 villages were flattened when the tsunami triggered by a 7.7-magnitude offshore earthquake pounded the Mentawai islands late Monday off the west coast of Sumatra.

"We've recovered over 300 bodies. At least 412 people are still missing," West Sumatra provincial disaster management official Ade Edward told AFP.

Survivors said they had no warning that the three-metre wave was bearing down on the Mentawais, a popular destination for foreign surfers but otherwise a poor and neglected outpost in the vast Indonesian archipelago.

Several hundred kilometres away on the central island of Java, another 29 people were killed when the country's most active volcano, Mount Merapi, erupted on Tuesday, spewing searing clouds of gas and lava into the sky.

Officials said almost 42,000 people had fled to temporary shelters around the nearby city of Yogyakarta, but there were fears for the fate of thousands more who had refused to budge. The United States and several of Indonesia's neighbours pledged help for a nation which often finds itself battling calamity, although Jakarta said it did not see a need for foreign assistance.

Several Australian tourists were caught in the tsunami, getting more than they bargained for on a surfing holiday.

One group survived after their boat was picked up by the wave and slammed into another, creating an explosion. Another group of nine surfers was found alive after being reported missing. - Borneo Bulletin (28th October 2010)