| Updated at: 0339 PST, Thursday, October 28, 2010|
PADANG: The death toll from a tsunami which struck a remote chain of Indonesian islands topped 280 on Thursday as fears grew for the fate of hundreds still listed as missing, officials said.
Disaster response officials said bodies were being found on beaches and coastal areas of the Mentawai islands off the western coast of Sumatra, which took the full force of the tsunami triggered by an earthquake on Monday night.
Entire villages had been washed away and hopes were fading that the missing had simply run into the hills.
"At least 282 people were killed and 412 people have gone missing," disaster management official Agam told media.
Survivors said they had almost no warning that the three-metre (10-foot) wall of water was bearing down on them, despite the laying of a sophisticated network of alarm buoys off the Sumatran coast.
As the magnitude of the disaster sank in, many were asking whether the expensive warning system -- established after the 2004 Asian tsunami which killed at least 168,000 people in Indonesia alone -- had failed.
An official tsunami warning was issued after the 7.7-magnitude quake but it either came too late or did not reach the communities in most danger.
One survivor, 32-year-old farmer Borinte, told media the wave slammed into his community on North Pagai island only 10 minutes after residents had felt the quake.
"About 10 minutes after the quake we heard a loud, thunderous sound. We went outside and saw the wave coming. We tried to run away to higher ground but the wave was much quicker than us," he told media on Wednesday.
Several continental plates meet in a deep ocean trench off the western coast of Sumatra, providing a constant source of seismic friction and potential disaster, according to scientists.