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Aftershock Hits Island In Mourning

Residents of a fishermen colony gather water at a pipeline in Madras, India, March 29, 2005. Thousands of people returned to their homes along India's coast after fleeing in fear of a second tsunami.
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His brown eyes puffy and bloodshot, Datot Mendra prepares to spend the night lying next to his wife.

Tomorrow he will bury her — and his sister and two other relatives.

"What will I tell my children?" the 55-year-old restaurant owner says. "I can't face it. My faith in Jesus is helping me through this."

Mendra's wife was among some 20 bodies wrapped in white sheets, candles flickering at their heads, laid out on the street outside the Santa Maria church in this town on Indonesia's predominantly Roman Catholic Nias Island.

More were arriving. Groups of four men approached, each holding the corner of a sheet with another body.

Most of the deaths from Monday night's 8.7-magnitude earthquake in the Indian Ocean were on Nias, 75 miles south of the epicenter. By the end of Tuesday, the island's death toll stood at about 330, but government officials said it could climb as high as 2,000.

CBS News Correspondent Barry Petersen reported that damage appeared spotty from the air above the Nias region, but in some areas, officials said the earthquake destroyed 70 percent of buildings.

Indonesia's government rapidly mobilized aid, a skill learned all too well after coping with the massive earthquake last December. But most of the immediate cleanup response was simply neighbor helping neighbor, Petersen reported.

Until recently, scores of international aid agencies were set up in Indonesia, there helping from the last quake. But since, most have gone home, so it hill take a while to get any massive aid effort back up and running.

An unidentified official from nearby Aceh province told Indonesia's Metro TV that about 100 people also died on neighboring Simeulue island. Both islands are just west of Indonesia's much larger Sumatra island.

A magnitude 5.8 temblor hit off Indonesia's coast Tuesday, the latest in a series of aftershocks following the powerful earthquake that hit the region the day before, Hong Kong seismologists said.

The temblor was recorded in Hong Kong at 1:22 p.m. and was centered 217 miles southeast of Banda Aceh.

Dave Jenkins, a New Zealand physician who runs the relief agency SurfAid International in western Sumatra, said he feared for about 10,000 people living on the tiny Banyak Islands, close to the quake's epicenter. By late Tuesday, contact had not been made with the islands.

While the scene outside the church was almost serene, elsewhere on this island of 600,000 people the atmosphere was anything but. Rescue workers working by candles and flashlight hunted through smoldering rubble for survivors in flattened buildings. Power was out, and electric cables lay tangled in the street.

Little heavy machinery was available, so families frantically searching for loved ones used crow bars and their bare hands to lift heavy chunks of concrete.

Smoke drifted out of piles of rubble and concrete homes where walls had folded in on themselves, almost certainly crushing to death anybody caught inside. A steeple had fallen from a church.

Although most of Indonesia is Muslim, Christianity persists in some areas — a vestige of Dutch colonization. The Nias islanders, particularly the well-organized southern villages, initially put up strong resistance when the Dutch tried to take control. But the Dutch finally conquered the island in 1909, and then Nias slowly started to convert to Christianity.

Monday's quake, which stuck an hour before midnight, toppled every building in the main street of Gunung Sitoli, a church-studded seaside town that is the island's largest.

A soccer field in the center of town and close to the palm-fringed Indian Ocean beach was transformed into a triage center where a dozen seriously injured islanders, some of them unconscious, were lying on doors salvaged from wrecked homes. They waited, hoping that a relief agency helicopter would be able to airlift them to a hospital on Sumatra.

"Four people here might not make it through the night!" yelled one of the few Western aid workers to arrive in the town Tuesday. "Do you have space on a chopper?"