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199,000 tons of TNT

Indonesia, October 28, 2010

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  <span class="field-credit">
    REUTERS/Presidential Palace-Abror Rizki/Handout   </span>
    Houses destroyed by the tsunami are seen in the South Pagai subdistrict in Indonesia's Mentawai islands. The tsunami that pounded remote islands in western Indonesia following an earthquake off the coast of Sumatra killed more than 300 people and hundreds more were missing. Photo: REUTERS/Presidential Palace-Abror Rizki/Handout

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, a magnitude 7 earthquake carries about as much as energy as 199,000 tons of TNT. That kind of energy is the reason why the small Mentawai Islands off the west coast of Sumatra were hit by a three-meter (10-foot) tsunami wave, which was spawned by a magnitude 7.7 earthquake in the Indian Ocean.

What is left is devastation as far as 600 meters (more than 1/3 of a mile) inland from the shore. The death toll is still rising — the latest estimate is at least 370 fatalities — but we do know that approximately 25,000 people, or about 5,000 households, have been affected.

Mercy Corps is working now to bring the basic necessities people need to start over again. Several team members are making their way to the remote island chain on a variety of boats, with supplies in hand to deliver to displaced and grieving families.