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Indonesia tsunami: baby found alive in storm drain offers fresh hope

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Achmad Ibrahim/AP

(Read caption) A newly orphaned 2-month-old baby, who was found in a storm drain, sleeps at a hospital in Sikakap, Pagai Island, West Sumatra, Indonesia, Oct. 29.

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News of a two-month-old baby found alive in a storm drain after the Indonesia tsunami offers a rare bit of good news since the tsunami swamped several the remote Mentawi Islands on Monday.

Earlier in the week, another child, 18 months old, was found alive in a tree. Both were found without their parents, whom officials assume were swept away in the 10-foot wave that swept through the villages.

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By Friday the official death toll had already hit at least 400. That number is expected to rise as more rescuers arrive on the scene and more information becomes available.

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The islands are accessible only by sea and air, so relief efforts have been slow. Helicopters are able to carry only limited amounts of aid, and bad weather prevented boats, which can carry more supplies, from departing immediately. The first responders were surfers (the Mentawi Islands are a popular surfing destination) and small organizations already in the area.

Many of the organizations and people able to provide the most relief were several hundred miles away. On Wednesday, although significant amounts of relief supplies had been gathered, much of it was still sitting on shore on the less remote islands or on boats waiting in their harbors, The Christian Science Monitor's correspondent in Indonesia reported.

The lack of warning of the approaching tsunami, set off by an earthquake, has prompted questions about the the costly warning system installed after the 2004 tsunami that killed more than 100,000 Indonesians. It failed to sound any sort of alarm. Indonesian officials have said that the buoys that make up the warning system were vandalized, the Monitor reported Thursday.