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Massive Quake, Tsunami Hit South Asia

Thousands Feared Dead as Tidal Waves Slam Coasts

COLOMBO (Dec. 26) - The world's fifth-largest quake in a century hit southern Asia on Sunday, unleashing a tsunami that crashed into Sri Lanka and India, drowning thousands and swamping tourist isles in Thailand and the Maldives.

A wall of water up to 30 feet high triggered by the 8.9 magnitude earthquake swept into Indonesia, over the coast of Sri Lanka and India and across southern Thai tourist islands, leaving up to 3,100 feared dead in seaside towns and villages.

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Two-thirds of the Maldives capital, Male, was flooded and officials voiced anxiety for the fate of dozens of low-lying, palm-ringed coral atolls crowded with international tourists for the Christmas holiday season.

Sri Lanka, where officials put the death toll at 1,500, appealed for emergency international assistance, President Chandrika Kumaratunga's office said. One million people, or 5 percent of the population, were affected, officials said.

"The president has declared a state of national disaster due to the seriousness of the situation," her office said.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh alerted the navy after 1,000 were reported dead and offered urgent help to Sri Lanka.

The earthquake of magnitude 8.9 as measured by the U.S. Geological Survey first struck at 7:59 a.m (0059 GMT) off the coast of the northern Indonesian island of Sumatra and swung north with multiple tremors into the Andaman islands.

More than 100 Western and Asian tourists on diving holidays were missing on islands off southern Thailand, about 70 of them in the famed Emeral Cave, a tourist official said.

The government sent helicopters to Koh Phi Phi, another island popular with tourists, and other smaller islands in the Andaman Sea to assess the damage in the peak holiday season.

It ordered the evacuation of stricken areas, which included beaches on the popular resort islands of Phuket and Krabi.

"Nothing like this has ever happened in our country before," said Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Biggest Quake in 40 Years

The earthquake was the world's biggest since 1964, said Julie Martinez, geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colorado. "It is multiple earthquakes along the same faultline."

It was the fifth-largest earthquake since 1900, she said.

"These big earthquakes, when they occur in shallow water, ... basically slosh the ocean floor ... and it's as if you're rocking water in the bathtub and that wave can travel basically throughout the ocean," USGS geophysicist Bruce Presgrave told the BBC.

In Sri Lanka, thousands fled the worst tsunami in living memory, scrambling to higher ground for fear of another wave.

"The army and the navy have sent rescue teams; we have deployed over four choppers and half the navy's eastern fleet to look for survivors," said military spokesman Brigadier Daya Ratnayake.

The worst-hit area appeared to be the tourist region of the south and east where beach hotels were inundated or swept away.

"Our naval base in Trincomalee is underwater and right now we are trying to manage the situation there while rescuing people," said navy spokesman Jayantha Perera.

In the low-lying Maldives, President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was to declare a national disaster in the archipelago whose coral atolls are a magnet for tourists from around the world, said chief government spokesman Ahmed Shaheed.

"The damage is considerable," Shaheed said. "The island is only about 3 feet above sea level and a wave of water 4 feet high swept over us."

The international airport was unusable, he said.

"It is a very bad situation. It is terrible," Shaheed said.

"As you know it is the peak tourist season. We are trying to get reports from those areas. The whole of the Maldives is a tourist area so we are just hoping and praying."

The world's worst tsunami in recent history struck on July 17, 1998, when three waves ripped through Papua New Guinea's northwest coast, killing 2,500.

Children Torn From Parents' Arms

At least 483 people were killed on Sunday on Indonesia's Sumatra island where the wave washed people out to sea and tore children from their parents' arms, officials said.

Indonesia, an archipelago of 17,000 islands, lies along the Pacific Ring of Fire where plate boundaries intersect and volcanoes regularly erupt.

To the north in Thailand, officials reported one wave 16 to 32 feet high hit hotel-lined beaches on Phuket.

At least 120 people had been killed and more than 1,000 injured, officials said.

"It happened in cycles. There would be a surge and then it would retreat and then there would be a next surge which was more violent and it went on like that," Paul Ramsbottom, a Briton on holiday in a Phuket beach bungalow, told BBC World TV.

"Then there was this one almighty surge. I mean literally this was the one which was picking up pickup trucks and motorcycles and throwing them around in front of us," he added.

One foreigner was known to be among the dead in Krabi.

Thai television showed scenes of devastation on one Phuket beach. Store fronts were damaged and cars and motorcycles were strewn around after being tossed about by the powerful waves.

A Thai man carried one elderly Western man in swimming trunks to safety on his back, ITV showed.

At least 1,000 people have been killed along the southern Indian coast and rescuers were searching for hundreds of fishermen missing, government officials said.

About 100 people had died in Madras alone, the city's police commissioner, K. Natarajan, told reporters. "The bodies in the hospital are mostly young women and children."

12/26/04 06:14 ET

Copyright 2004 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. All active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.

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Authorities have stated that the deathtoll has exceeded 4,500 and will probably reach 10,000 and over.

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I have distant family, and a few just regular family, celebrateing a family friends wedding in Shri Lanka at the moment. They were all evacuated to the hills.

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Some friends of my sister who are in Myanmar, Andeman Islands and south-eastern India... no one could get in touch with them even untill now crying.gif.

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i'm sorry to hear that; I hope they turn up okay.

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My thoughts are with all those poor people in that region and their relatives all over the world!

The raw power of nature can be so devastating!

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Terribly sad and frightening how vulnerable we all really are against nature. sad.gif

Sea surges kill thousands in Asia

More than 11,500 people have been killed across southern Asia in massive sea surges triggered by the strongest earthquake in the world for 40 years.

The 8.9 magnitude quake struck under the sea near Aceh in north Indonesia, generating a wall of water that sped across thousands of kilometres of sea.

More than 4,100 died in Indonesia, 4,300 in Sri Lanka and 2,900 in India.

Casualty figures are rising over a wide area, including resorts in Sri Lanka and Thailand packed with holidaymakers.


Sri Lanka: 4,300 dead

Indonesia: 4,185 dead

India: 2,900 dead

Thailand: 310 dead

Malaysia: 28 dead

Maldives: 10 dead

Bangladesh: 2 dead

Exact numbers of people killed, injured or missing in the countries hit, are impossible to confirm.

Hundreds are still thought to be missing from coastal regions and, in Sri Lanka alone, officials say more than a million people have been forced from their homes.

Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga declared a national disaster and the military has been deployed to help rescue efforts.

Hundreds of fishermen are missing off India's southern coast, and there are reports of scores of bodies being washed up on beaches.

In Indonesia, communications remain difficult, particularly to the strife-torn region of Aceh where the main quake, early on Sunday morning, was followed by nine aftershocks. Reports speak of bodies being recovered from trees.

A national disaster has also been announced in the low-lying Maldives islands, more than 2,500km (1,500 miles) from the quake's epicentre, after they were hit by severe flooding.

The Indian-owned Andaman and Nicobar islands, much nearer the epicentre, were also badly hit.

Casualty reports could not be officially confirmed, but a police chief told reporters 300 people had died and another 700 were feared dead.

Waves forced out from the earthquake are even reported to have reached Somalia, on the east coast of Africa.

And as far away as the Seychelles, nine people were reported missing as a two-metre surge struck.

Resort 'wiped out'

International aid agencies have called for a rapid response to the emergency to avert further deaths.

The European Union immediately pledged 3m euros (£2.1m) to disaster relief efforts.

Messages of condolences have poured in from around the world.

US President George W Bush offered aid to affected nations and expressed sorrow for the "terrible loss of life and suffering".

Harrowing reports of people caught in the devastation and dramatic tales of escape are emerging.

Jayanti Lakshmi, 70, had gone shopping with her daughter-in-law in Cuddalore, southern India. Ms Lakshmi returned to find her son and twin grandsons dead in their hut.

"I wish I had died instead of the others, my daughter-in-law would have a life. I can't bear to watch her pain," she said.

In Thailand, hundreds of holiday bungalows are reported to have been destroyed on the popular Phi Phi island.

Resort owner Chan Marongtaechar told AP: "I am afraid there will be a high figure of foreigners missing in the sea, and also my staff."

Indonesia's location - along the Pacific geological "Ring of Fire" - makes it prone to volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.

Sunday's tremor - the fifth strongest since 1900 - had a particularly widespread effect because it seems to have taken place just below the surface of the ocean, analysts say.

Bruce Presgrave of the US Geological service told the Reuters news agency: "These big earthquakes, when they occur in shallow water... basically slosh the ocean floor... and it's as if you're rocking water in the bathtub and that wave can travel throughout the ocean."

Experts say tsunamis generated by earthquakes can travel at up to 500km/h.


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Asia Quake's Tsunamis Kill Nearly 11,800

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - Legions of rescuers spread across Asia Monday after an earthquake of epic power struck deep beneath the Indian Ocean, unleashing 20-foot tidal waves that ravaged coasts across thousands of miles and killed nearly 11,800 people and left millions homeless.

The death toll along the southern coast of Asia — and as far west as Somalia, on the African coast, where nine people were reported lost — steadily increased as authorities sorted out a far-flung disaster caused by Sunday's 9.0-magnitude earthquake, strongest in 40 years and fourth-largest in a century.

More than one million people were driven from their homes in Indonesia alone, and rescuers there on Monday combed seaside villages for survivors. The Indian air force used helicopters to rush food and medicine to stricken seashore areas.

Another million were driven from their homes in Sri Lanka where some 25,000 soldiers and 10 air force helicopters were deployed in relief and rescue efforts, authorities said.

At Thailand's beach resorts, packed with Europeans fleeing the winter cold at the peak of the holiday season, families and friends had tearful reunions Monday after a day of fear that their loved ones had been swept away.

Katri Seppanen, 27, of Helsinki, Finland, walked around barefoot, in her salt water-stained T-shirt and skirt, at the Patong Hospital waiting room where she spent the night with her mother and sister. She had a bandaged cut on her leg.

"The water went back, back, back, so far away, and everyone wondered what it was — a full moon or what? Then we saw the wave come, and we ran," said a tearful Seppanen, who was on the popular Patong beach with her family. The wave washed over their heads and separated them.

Fifty-eight half-naked and swimming suit-clad corpses lay in rows outside the Patong Hospital emergency room. Three babies under the age of one were among the victims. A photo of one baby was posted on the wall of victims, the little corpse in a nearby refrigerator.

The earthquake hit at 6:58 a.m.; the tsunami came as much as 2 1/2 hours later, without warning, on a morning of crystal blue skies. Sunbathers and snorkelers, cars and cottages, fishing boats and even a lighthouse were swept away.

Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India each reported thousands dead. Deaths were also reported in Malaysia, Maldives and Bangladesh.

"It's an extraordinary calamity of such colossal proportions that the damage has been unprecedented," said Chief Minister Jayaram Jayalalithaa of India's Tamil Nadu, a southern state which reported 1,705 dead, many of them strewn along beaches, virtual open-air mortuaries.

"It all seems to have happened in the space of 20 minutes. A massive tidal wave of extreme ferocity ... smashed everything in sight to smithereens," she said.

At least three Americans were among the dead — two in Sri Lanka and one in Thailand, according to State Department spokesman Noel Clay. He said a number of other Americans were injured, but he had no details.

"We're working on ways to help. The United States will be very responsive," Clay said.

The quake was centered 155 miles south-southeast of Banda Aceh, the capital of Indonesia's Aceh province on Sumatra, and six miles under the Indian Ocean's seabed. The temblor leveled dozens of buildings on Sumatra — and was followed Sunday by at least a half-dozen powerful aftershocks, ranging in magnitude from almost 6 to 7.3, and one aftershock Monday that hit India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

The waves that followed the first massive jolt were far more lethal.

Full Article


This has happened almost exactly 1 year after the earthquake in Bam, Iran that left 30,000 dead.

Edited by Kellalor
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sad.gif I know that this is a terrible thing but there was nothing that we could do to stop it. Nobody could do that. The only thing that we can do is send help now. I just hope that the people that survived can be saved
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A friend of mine got an email this morning from one of our good friends who is in Thailand with his friend.

Anyway he was woken up with water gushing through the hotel door and his bed being thrown across the room. He is okay thankgod but his friend who was on the beach is lost and he can't find him. no.gif

This is a very sad and worrying time. crying.gif Hoping that his friend is found.

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Why are so many Israeli's down there? Workers? Tourists?

Luckily only two Australians have died one kid and a teenager with downs syndrome...three missing though.

I'll keep my eye on the news (I don't sleep) so I'll post if there are any updates.

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Luckily only two Australians have died one kid and a teenager with downs syndrome...three missing though.


Only two... Even one life is to much to be taken away.

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Asia battles earthquake aftermath

Survivors and rescuers are battling the devastation left by sea surges that wiped out entire communities, killing more than 20,000 people.

The death toll continues to spiral up and mass graves are being dug even as people hunt for the missing.

The extent of the damage is still not known in areas worst hit, including Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India and Thailand.

International aid efforts have begun amid fears that disease could spread through the disaster zone.

Survivors may have little clean water or sanitation as they try to build shelters and bury the dead after Sunday's 9.0 magnitude earthquake sent huge waves from Malaysia to Africa.

"This may be the worst natural disaster in recent history because it is affecting so many heavily populated coastal areas... so many vulnerable communities," UN emergency relief co-ordinator Jan Egeland told CNN.

Sri Lankan government officials doubled the number of known deaths on Monday to more than 10,000 and at least 800 more are reported killed in the rebel-held north of the island.

"The scale of the tragedy is massive and Sri Lanka... has never been hit by tidal waves or earthquakes in its known history," President Chandrika Kumaratunga told the BBC.


The number of dead has also soared well into the thousands in Indonesia and India, and thousands more may have been killed on the Andaman and Nicobar islands where reports say entire communities were swept into the sea.

Packed holiday resorts in Thailand were also badly hit, and the waves killed people in Malaysia, the Maldives, Burma and Bangladesh.

Thousands are missing and many more thousands forced from their homes by the worst earthquake in 40 years that generated a wall of water speeding across the oceans.

Hundreds of fishermen are feared drowned off the coast of Somalia, officials said on Monday.

Aftershocks have also been detected, sparking warnings from Indian and Sri Lankan weather officials of further, smaller surges, also known as tsunamis.

Searches are continuing off southern India for those swept away from beaches or in fishing boats.

"Death came from the sea," Satya Kumari, a construction worker living in Pondicherry, told Reuters. "The waves just kept chasing us. It swept away all our huts. What did we do to deserve this?"

In northern Indonesia, nearest the epicentre of the undersea quake, soldiers were sent to recover bodies from trees where they were dumped by huge waves, as correspondents reported the stench of death was beginning to become overpowering.

One man, Rajali, told the Associated Press news agency he could not find dry ground to bury his wife and two children.

Helicopters winched survivors from Phi Phi island in Thailand overnight as the navy was called in to help the rescue effort from the country's ruined holiday resorts that had been packed with tourists from dozens of countries.

Many of the bodies still being recovered are said to be clad in swimsuits, with people dragged to their deaths as the tsunami smashed into beaches without warning.

A national disaster has been announced in the low-lying Maldives islands, more than 2,500km (1,500 miles) from the quake's epicentre, after they were hit by severe flooding.

Aid promises

International organisations have already made pledges to help the victims.

The International Monetary Fund promised "whatever possible assistance"

The Red Cross launched an appeal for 5m euros (£3.5m; $6.8m)

The European Union pledged 3m euros (£2.1m; $4.1m)

Russia sent 25 tons of humanitarian aid to Sri Lanka.

Sunday's tremor - the fifth strongest since 1900 - had a particularly widespread effect because it seems to have taken place just below the surface of the ocean, analysts say.

Experts say tsunamis generated by earthquakes can travel at up to 500km/h.

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Why are so many Israeli's down there? Workers? Tourists?

Luckily only two Australians have died one kid and a teenager with downs syndrome...three missing though.

I'll keep my eye on the news (I don't sleep) so I'll post if there are any updates.


The far east is one of the main tourist locations Israelis go to.

In southern India there are even towns where Indians speak Hebrew and all the signs are in Hebrew, and every year new young Israeli tourists (in their 20s) replace the ones (the Israelis) who lived in these villages the year before, and so the towns are known as "mini Israels".

Thailand, and especially Phucet, is also a place that lots of young Israelis go to.

In any single time I think there are as many as 10,000 Israelis in the far east.

In recent years many Israelis also come to Australia and NZ... if I'm not mistaken there are about 20,000 Israelis there who work, visit relatives, or simply tourists (your PM even invited more Israelis to immigrate into Australia for some reason).

The far east is indeed very loved by most Israelis, especially young Israelis after military service who come down there to clean their minds.... now I fear that'll change sad.gif .

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CHENNAI, India (CNN) -- The death toll from Sunday's tsunamis climbed to 21,000 by Monday as fears of disease from decaying bodies and contaminated water grew in Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

The giant waves -- triggered by the most powerful earthquake on Earth in 40 years -- also left thousands injured, thousands missing and hundreds of thousands homeless.

A Sri Lankan forecaster warned of a "remote possibility of small tidal waves" caused by aftershocks Monday.

Some of the tsunamis reached as far as 1,000 miles from the epicenter of the 9.0 magnitude quake, which was located about 100 miles (160 km) off the coast of Indonesia's Sumatra Island at a depth of about 6.2 miles (10 km).

The quake struck about 7 a.m. Sunday (7 p.m. ET Saturday), according to the U.S. Geological Survey's National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC). It is the fourth-largest earthquake since such measurements began in 1899, according to the NEIC, tying a 1952 quake in Kamchatka, Russia.

More than 10,000 people have been reported dead in Sri Lanka. Most of them, authorities said, were in the eastern district of Batticaloa. Thousands were missing, an estimated 1 million were displaced and an estimated 250,000 were homeless.

In southern Sri Lanka, 200 prisoners escaped when the waves swept away a high-security prison in Matara.

Witnesses in the eastern Sri Lankan port city of Trincomalee reported 40 foot (14 meter) waves hitting inland as far as a half mile (1 km).

The Sri Lankan government declared a state of emergency, and, along with the government of the Maldives, has requested international assistance, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported.

As the sun rose, 20,000 Sri Lankan soldiers and naval personnel launched relief and rescue efforts. India sent six warships carrying supplies, along with helicopters. Priorities included identifying the hardest-hit areas and airdropping supplies, along with shepherding stranded people to safer areas.

Sri Lankan authorities imposed a curfew overnight, and many residents remained concerned about the possibility of additional tsunamis. The country has been in the throes of a civil war, and land mines uprooted by the waves were hampering relief efforts.

Sri Lanka's director of meteorology Abey Singha Bandara told CNN his department's analysis suggested "a remote possibility of small tidal waves, but not of the magnitude experienced on Sunday."

Some tourists, meanwhile, were evacuated from the hard-hit eastern coasts to the capital Colombo, on the west coast and unaffected by the disaster.

At first light, many Sri Lankans ventured out to scour the debris for belongings or to search for information on missing family members.

In India, the official government news agency Press Trust of India said at least 6,200 Indians were killed, and more bodies were being recovered.

A resident of Chennai (formerly Madras) in Tamil Nadu district -- India's hardest-hit area -- said he saw several people being swept out to sea.

Along India's southeastern coast, several villages appeared to have been swept away. Thousands of fishermen -- including 2,000 from the Chennai area alone -- who were at sea when the waves thundered ashore have not returned.

Along the coast, brick foundations were all that remained of village homes. In Tamil Nadu, 2,500 people have been confirmed dead, and officials said 3,000 died on the remote Andaman and Nicobar islands, where dozens of aftershocks were centered. Communication from the islands to the mainland was cut off.

In Thailand, authorities said at least 866 people are dead, and hundreds are missing. Among the missing were scuba divers who had been exploring the Emerald Cave off Phuket's coast.

Phuket's airport -- which closed when its runways flooded -- reopened, but most roads in the area remained closed as officials tried to assess the damage.

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra arrived in Phuket and declared the situation "under control." He told CNN he planned to direct rescue and relief efforts overnight.

Witnesses reported guests drowned in their hotel rooms near the coast as 30-foot waves washed ashore.

Others reported narrow escapes, including a Spaniard who had been aboard a boat when a wave approached.

The captain began screaming and turned the boat directly into a nearby shore, where he beached it. As those aboard jumped from the craft and scrambled up the steep beach, they turned back to see the waves crush their boat, the Spaniard said.

More than 4,350 people are reported dead in Indonesia -- many of them in Aceh in northern Sumatra, about 100 miles from the quake's epicenter, officials said.

The quake also inflicted heavy damage on the area, which is a hotbed of rebel activity, before two tsunamis slammed the coastline. Access and communications were difficult if not impossible. The death toll remained a mystery on the west coast of Aceh, where communication had been wiped out.

In the Maldives, 46 people are dead and more than 70 missing, according to Hassan Sobir, the Maldives High Commissioner.

Among the dead are at least 16 non-nationals, including six Britons, six Americans and four Italians, officials from those countries said. Of the Americans, five were killed in Sri Lanka and one in Thailand, U.S. officials said.

No warning

The tsunamis struck with no warning to those in coastal areas, as no warning system exists for the Indian Ocean, said Eddie Bernard, director of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Pacific Marine and Environmental Labs in Seattle.

Staffers at warning centers that cover the Pacific Basin and the U.S. West Coast were aware of the quake and the possibility of tsunamis, said Laura Kong, director of the International Tsunami Information Center in Honolulu, Hawaii.

"They were able to make contact, but they did not have the proper government officials to notify," she said. "They'll be working on this in the future."

The earthquake is classified as "great" -- the strongest classification given by the National Earthquake Information Center.

NEIC geophysicist Don Blakeman said the tsunamis were triggered by the initial massive jolt.

"The damage is just phenomenal," said Jan Egelund, U.N. emergency relief coordinator. "I think we are seeing now one of the worst natural disasters ever."

There was disagreement over whether the threat was over. Waverly Person, Blakeman's colleague at NEIC, said the tsunamis are "long over" and residents and visitors should not worry about further tsunamis.

Bernard, however, said the aftershocks are strong enough to produce more tsunamis.

One such aftershock, measuring 7.3 in magnitude, struck about 200 miles (300 km) northwest of Banda Aceh -- on Sumatra's northernmost tip -- more than four hours after the initial quake, according to the NEIC. The center 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," Person said.

The quake represented the energy released from "a very large rupture in the earth's crust" more than 600 miles (1,000 km) long. The rupture created shock waves that pushed the water at speeds of up to several hundred miles per hour.

It was the strongest earthquake to hit anywhere on Earth since March 1964, when a 9.2 quake struck near Alaska's Prince William Sound. The strongest recorded earthquake registered 9.5 on May 22, 1960, in Chile.

Sunday's quake hit a year after a 6.6-magnitude quake in Bam, Iran, killed more than 30,000 people, injured another 30,000 and destroyed 85 percent of the buildings in the southeastern Iran city.


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Sri Lankan military authorities report more than 10,000 people killed. In the northeast, Tamil Tigers report recovering 800 bodies.


At least 6,200 killed by waves which flooded the southern coast, official media report.


News agencies report more than 4,350 killed, many of them in Aceh in northern Sumatra.


Thai authorities report at least 866 people dead.


46 people are dead and more than 70 missing, according to Hassan Sobir, the Maldives High Commissioner.


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Earthquake in asia , thosands are dead . its shocking.

I hope pendkar timur is ok.


Well thank you very much mr.wunarmdscissor...!! original.gif

i'm fine here,just a little shock...by the way..i'm living in the East

Coast of Penisular Malaysia.

The Tsunami effected North West of Penisular Malaysia...and that was horrible.

...and i hope engulf is okay... no.gif

user posted image

Tsunami kills 45 in four States


Malaysia was not spared. At least 45 people were killed with hundreds injured and missing in the aftermath of a tsunami triggered by the most powerful earthquake since 1964. Tremors following the early morning quake sent terrified residents of high-rise buildings pouring out into the streets.

The quake, measuring 8.9 on the Richter scale, had set off a chain reaction reaching far and wide, with 10,329 deaths from Penang to Thailand, Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh.

Damage to life and property was estimated to be in the region of billions of ringgit. Communication links were affected with ports and airports closed in some of the affected areas.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who is abroad, said he was saddened by the news and offered his condolences to all family members affected by the disaster.

"I have spoken to the Deputy Prime Minister and have been briefed on the situation. I have instructed him and the Second Finance Minister to offer all assistance necessary," he said in a telephone interview with RTM.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Second Finance Minister Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop will visit the disaster areas tomorrow morning.

Najib, at his residence today, said precautionary measures were being taken in case of more aftershocks.

"We are undertaking search- and-rescue operations. All those living along affected coastal areas and in high-risk areas will be evacuated with immediate effect."

Checks would also be done on infrastructure that may have been damaged, he said.

From 1.15pm, tidal waves three-storeys high flattened coastal villages, destroyed homes and infrastructure in the northern coastal States of the peninsula.

Boats and cars were tossed about like toys.

Hospitals in Penang, Kedah and Perak treated hundreds of people. Tremors were felt throughout the country.

At Press time, 32 people had died in Penang, 10 in Kedah, two in Perak and one in Selangor.

Another two Malaysians died in Thailand while diving at Emerald Cave off Thailand?s southern coast.

The Penang deaths involved 16 on the beaches of Batu Ferringhi, 15 in Balik Pulau and one in Seberang Prai Utara.

In Kedah, 10, including an 11-month-old baby girl, drowned in Kuala Muda when tidal waves lashed several villages.

Penang Civil Defence director Mohamad Johari Mohamad Taufik said many fishermen were feared missing after the waves hit the western coast of Penang.

"Many fishing boats went out to sea this morning. Not all have returned," he said.


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