For Indonesians, Mother Nature Strikes Again

A car is covered with ash from the erupting Mount Merapi volcano at Kaliurang village in Sleman, on October 26, 2010 near Yogyakarta, Indonesia. (Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)

Indonesia was struck by a tsunami caused by a 7.7 magnitude undersea earthquake late Monday. More than 270 deaths have been reported in the state of Sumatra.

Ten villages near the Mentawai islands were hit by a 3 meter (10 foot) high wave, leaving many missing. Relief efforts have been delayed due to damage and rough weather.

The tsunami comes as Indonesia's Mount Merapi, sitting between Central Java and the historical city of Yogyakarta, continues to spew hot ash and smoke. Scientists have urged the evacuation of all surrounding villages as pressure building beneath Merapi's lava dome threatens to cause one of the most powerful blasts in years.

So far, 28 people have reportedly died due to the eruption that began before dusk today.

Indonesia's unfortunate placement on the Pacific Ring of Fire has caused many natural disasters in the past. Merapi, which last erupted in 2006, killed two people. A 1930 eruption wiped out 13 villages, killing over 1,000 people.

Last year, more than 1,000 people died in an earthquake off Sumatra. In December 2009, a 9.1 magnitude quake off the coast of Aceh triggered a tsunami in the Indian Ocean, taking the lives of 250,000 people in 13 countries.

While these latest natural disasters have focused attention on the country, for many Indonesians, life goes on. Many farm around the volcanoes because the soil is rich in nutrients. For other Javanese, Mount Merapi is a sacred site.

The Associated Press reported officials saying some villagers are waiting for the local "gatekeeper" of the volcano to tell them that the increased activity is dangerous. Described as a medicine man, he is believed by many villagers to have a spiritual connection to the volcano.