Asia quake toll tops 3,600
Sunday, December 26, 2004 Posted: 9:21 AM EST (1421 GMT)
A street littered with debris at Patong beach, Phuket.
Confirmed death toll is over 1,700, but Colombo officials believe death toll will rise above 2,000
At least 1,000 killed by waves which flooded the southern coast, interior minister says
More than 500 killed - many of them in Aceh, in northern Sumatra
Thai authorities say nearly 400 were killed - 200 reported on the small island of Phi Phi
At least three children reported killed in the high waters on an island north of the capital, Male
(CNN) - Massive tsunamis triggered by the largest earthquake to shake the planet in over 40 years have wiped out coastal areas across southeastern Asia, killing more than 3,600 people - most of them in Sri Lanka and India.
The initial quake, measuring 8.9 in magnitude, struck about 100 miles (160 km) off the coast of Indonesia's Sumatra island around 7 a.m local time Sunday (0000 GMT), according to the U.S. Geological Survey's National Earthquake Information Center. It is the fifth largest earthquake in recorded history, according to the NEIC.
Sri Lankan authorities are reporting over 1,700 people killed, most of them in the eastern district of Batticaloa. Several districts in the country's south have still not reported casualty figures, and authorities fear the death toll could rise. The huge waves also swept away a high security prison in Matara in southern Sri Lanka, allowing 200 prisoners to escape. Eyewitnesses in eastern Sri Lankan port city of Trincomalee reported waves as high as 40 feet (12 meters), hitting inland as far as half a mile (1 km).
Sri Lankan officials imposed a curfew as night fell, and tourists were being evacuated from the eastern coasts to the capital, Colombo, unaffected on the west coast. Steven Evans, the British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, told CNN the island nation needed help in rescue efforts.
India has agreed to help assist Sri Lanka, sending two naval ships to the resort town of Galle, in the south, and Trincomalee, according to Colombo officials. Indian aircraft will bring in relief supplies to the country on Monday. India itself is reeling from the aftermath of the quake. Interior Minister Shivraj Patil said at least 1,000 were killed as a result of the massive waves. A resident of Chennai (formerly Madras) in Tamil Nadu district - the hardest hit area - said he witnessed several people being swept away by a tidal wave there.
Along India's southeastern coast, several villages appeared to have been swept away, and hundreds of fishermen who were out at sea when when the massive waves swept across the waters have not returned. Patil told CNN 700 people were killed in Tamil Nadu and 200 in Andhra Pradesh. Poor communications with India's remote Andaman and Nicobar islands, which were closer to the quake's epicenter, has prevented any reports of damage and casualties. Most of the 14 aftershocks have been centered off these islands.
Thai authorities say nearly 400 are feared dead - most of them, at least 200, on the small island of Phi Phi, between Thailand's coastal area and the resort island of Phuket. The coastal city of Krabi is reporting 48 deaths there - and 200 small boats missing, many feared to have been manned and out to sea when the waves crashed ashore.
On Phuket - one of the region's most popular tourist destination - at least 150 are reported dead. One witness said Phuket's Laguna Beach resort area is "completely gone." Phuket's airport, which closed down when its runways flooded, reopened, and many of the island's roads were passable.
Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Chinnawat arrived in Phuket and said the situation was "under control." He told CNN he planned to stay the night and direct rescue and relief efforts. NEIC geophysicist Don Blakeman said there was also a report that an entire coastal village in Thailand was destroyed by a tsunami. Over 500 people were killed Indonesia by the quake and the following tidal waves - many of them in Aceh, in northern Sumatra, about 100 miles from the quake's epicenter, according to local reports.
"We still haven't got any reports from the western coast of Aceh, which is closest to the epicenter so officials are bracing themselves for a lot more bad news," said journalist John Aglionby in Jakarta. The earthquake is classified as "great" - the strongest possible classification given by the NEIC. Blakeman said all of the tsunamis were triggered by the initial quake, and not the aftershocks.
Fourteen moderate to strong aftershocks were recorded in the region in the following hours, according to the NEIC. One major aftershock, measuring 7.3 in magnitude, struck about 200 miles (300 km) northwest of Banda Aceh - on Sumatra's northernmost tip - over four hours after the initial quake, according to the NEIC. The rest of the aftershocks measured under 6.5 in magnitude. The NEIC expects the quake to produce hundreds of smaller aftershocks, under 4.6 magnitude, and thousands smaller than that.
"A quake of this size has some pretty serious effects," he said. He explained the quake was the energy released from "a very large rupture in the earth's crust" over 600 miles (1,000 km) long. It was the strongest earthquake to hit since March 1964, when a 9.2 quake struck near Alaska's Prince William Sound.
Terrible, just terrible Fears are that the death toll will rise even further. According to our (Dutch) news, the death toll has already risen to around 6,000. More to come.