Jakarta, Indonesia -- At least 40 people were killed and 380 others were left missing after a 7.7-magnitude earthquake struck off Sumatra on Monday, Indonesian officials said Tuesday.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the quake generated a "significant" tsunami. Although communication with remote areas was difficult, witnesses in west Sumatra reported seeing a 6-meter (18-foot) high wave. One representative said at least one village with a population of about 200 people was swept away, with only 40 people recovered.
The numbers were in flux because information was trickling in from remote parts of Indonesia, a country made up of a myriad of islands.
Large waves also were keeping rescue crews from reaching the disaster zone, Hendri Dori Satoko, head of the Mentawai Islands parliament, said on local television.
The Sumatran coastline is known for large waves, making it a popular surfing destination. Surf travel company The Perfect Wave said in a statement on its website it had 32 clients in the area.
Between eight and 10 Australians were missing and were thought to be on a tourist boat, the MV Southern Cross, that was in the affected area when the quake struck, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in a statement.
The Australian Embassy in Jakarta was attempting to contact the boat, but "efforts to contact the captain have been hampered by poor telephone coverage in the area and by the fact that the boat is reportedly not equipped with a satellite phone," the statement said.
Indonesia's Sea Security Coordinator said it had not received any distress calls from boats in the area, and "at this stage we have no information that causes us to hold concerns for the welfare of the Australians on the boat." But the embassy will continue working with Indonesian authorities to confirm their safety, the statement said.
"The local residents in the Mentawai Islands reported seeing a tsunami as high as 3 meters [that] reached as far as 600 meters inland," said Mujiharto, of the Indonesian Health Ministry.
The quake struck at 9:42 p.m. Monday, triggering a tsunami warning that was later lifted when the warning center said sea level readings indicated the threat had diminished or was over for most areas.
The Perfect Wave statement said the quake triggered a 3-meter (9 feet) high tsunami that washed through a bay where two boats with clients on board were docked, the statement said. One boat hit the other, which caught on fire, and all the guests jumped overboard. Nine guests and five crew members were washed into the jungle and took more than an hour to make their way to safety, the company said. All those aboard were picked up by a third boat and were safe "apart from suffering some smoke inhalation and minor scratches," the statement said.
A surf guide aboard the third boat reported "there was a lot of debris floating in the water including bar stools and other pieces of furniture from Macaronis Resort," the company said. "No news on the state of the village at Silabu."
The resort, where six clients were staying, is "all but gone," the statement said. However, its staff and guests were all reported safe.
The company said it was working to obtain replacement passports for its clients and organize flights home.
The epicenter of the quake was 240 kilometers (149 miles) south of Padang, at a depth of 20.6 kilometers (12.8 miles), according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The magnitude was revised upward from a preliminary magnitude of 7.5.
The city of Padang and the Mentawai Islands are located at the meeting of two tectonic plates, making them vulnerable to earthquakes and tsunamis.
Source : CNN