Humanitarian aid organisation SurfAid International has launched an appeal to assist the 70,000 villagers of the Mentawai Island chain, off Indonesia's West Sumatran coast, who have been seriously affected by two major earthquakes this week.

Preliminary SurfAid assessments have shown serious damage to houses, schools, health clinics, churches and mosques right throughout the island chain. Many frightened communities are sleeping in the open, close to evacuation routes to higher ground, as they fear another major earthquake and tsunami.

SurfAid had staff on the ground in Tuapejat, the regional capital of the Mentawai Islands, and also in Mentawai villages when the first 8.4 magnitude earthquake hit on Thursday evening. The following morning another earthquake, measuring 7.9, hit.

SurfAid E-Prep (Emergency Preparedness) Program Manager, Jason Brown, was in Malilimok village, on the island of Siberut, with his team when the first earthquake struck.

"About 80 per cent of the houses were damaged," Brown said. "They had mostly fallen off their foundations; some were cracked in half, and some had major structural damage.

"Many villagers reinforced their homes to try to stop them sliding further off their foundations. The kindergarten and Protestant church were badly damaged, and footbridges and cement paths were cracked."

Twenty houses were destroyed in Tuapejat and the whole town evacuated to higher ground in fear of a tsunami.

Brown, his E-Prep team and local government officials have spent today (Friday 14 September) assessing damage throughout the island chain and he said there was an immediate need for tents and tarpaulins.

SurfAid founder and Medical Director, Dr Dave Jenkins, said SurfAid would also be lending its expertise in the Mentawai Islands to other NGOs (Non-Government Organisations) that will be assisting in the relief operations.

"We particularly have expertise in communications and marine operations as we have worked in the Mentawai for seven years now, plus we have experience from the Nias and Aceh earthquakes and tsunami two years ago," Dr Jenkins said. "We can help other NGOs deliver tents, food and other vital supplies, and continue monitoring the health and food security situation."

You can donate to the Mentawai Earthquake Appeal through the SurfAid website at: