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Tsunami, Volcano Cause Devastation in Indonesia

October 27, 2010 at 5:08 PM EDT
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HARI SREENIVASAN: The government of Afghanistan has delayed a ban on private security firms by at least two months. They had been due to stop work by December 17. Instead, the office of Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced a committee will craft a timetable to phase in the ban.

Also today, a NATO soldier was killed in a bombing in the north. Fifty-six coalition troops have been killed this month.

Indonesia struggled today to recover from a pair of natural disasters. A tsunami hit and a volcano erupted within 24 hours of each other this week. We have a report narrated by Tom Clarke of Independent Television News.

TOM CLARKE: People and property scoured away by the sea on the shores of the Mentawai Islands. Only a strong earthquake a few minutes before gave any warning the three-meter wave might be on its way.

Bad weather is hampering efforts to get to parts of these remote islands, but it’s feared 10 coastal villages and a surfing resort have been destroyed by Monday’s tsunami. Many of the 280 confirmed dead were swept into the jungle by the wave. More than 400 are still missing.

Others, like these visiting yachtsmen, had lucky escapes.

DANIEL NORTH, yacht crew member: This boat here, Freedom, was anchored outside of us. They were caught by the wave, came surfing into us on the wave, hit us directly in the side of the boat, piercing a fuel tank. Midas caught on fire immediately.

TOM CLARKE: This coast of Sumatra is in one of the world’s most active geological areas. The 7.7-magnitude quake struck off the coast of the Mentawai Islands on Monday evening.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center did issue a local alert seven minutes later, but eyewitnesses said tsunami waves were already reaching the islands around the same time.

It’s reported early warning buoys failed to detect the approaching wave because they had been vandalized. But with the quake so close, there would have been little time to respond. Aid is now leaving the capital, Jakarta, for the islands, but some is heading the other way, for Indonesia’s geological woes are double.

On the island of Java, Mount Merapi is erupting again. Despite efforts to evacuate 40,000 villagers from its slopes, at least 28 people have been killed, smothered by scalding plumes of ash spewing from the crater.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Thousands of people across Indonesia have fled the disaster zones.

More relief arrived in Haiti today to fight an epidemic of cholera that’s killed more than 290 people. Two planes carrying humanitarian aid shipments landed in the capital, Port-au-Prince. Aid agencies there are working to prevent the disease from spreading to camps of earthquake survivors.

The World Health Organization confirmed the death rate is slowing. It said stepped-up treatment and basic education about sanitation are making a difference.

The FBI has arrested a Virginia man for plotting to bomb subway stations in the Washington, D.C., area. Farooque Ahmed is a naturalized citizen born in Pakistan. He was taken into custody after a sting operation. Federal officials

said he thought he was dealing with al-Qaida agents. They also said the public was never in danger.

In economic news, sales of big-ticket manufactured goods, like aircraft, rose in September. But businesses spent less on computers, communication gear and other goods needed for expansion.

The results left Wall Street looking for direction. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 43 points to close at 11126. The Nasdaq rose nearly six points to close at 2503.

Wells Fargo will refile documents in 55,000 foreclosure cases to correct mistakes. The bank is one of several institutions that have been reviewing thousands of documents. In a statement today, Wells Fargo said the review found some problems, but it said it doesn’t believe the problems led to any improper foreclosures. Instead, the company said it’s acting out of an abundance of caution to refile affidavits in 23 states.

A huge study of life on Earth concludes that one-fifth of all mammals, birds and amphibians are moving closer to extinction. The global audit in the journal “Science” reviewed nearly 26,000 species. It found at least 52 move

closer to extinction every year. At the same time, it said conservation efforts are helping some animals, such as humpback whales.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.