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Asian quake toll tops 3,000

Written By Syafrein Effendiuz on 26/12/04 | Ahad, Disember 26, 2004

CNN -- Massive tidal waves triggered by the largest earthquake to shake the planet in over 40 years have wiped out coastal areas across southeastern Asia as far as 1,000 miles away, killing nearly 3,000 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 (0000 GMT), according to the U.S. Geological Survey's National Earthquake Information Center.

Colombo officials believe the death toll in Sri Lanka will rise over 2,000 after tidal waves devastated the country's eastern coast. So far, the confirmed death toll is over 1,500.

The government has declared a state of emergency, and President Chandrika Kumaratunga is returning from a trip to London.

In addition to the natural devastation, police in the southern districts of Galle and Matara are reporting widespread looting. Some 200 prisoners in Matara escaped after the massive tidal waves demolished their prison.

Officials in the eastern district of Batticaloa reported 1,032 fatalities. In the eastern Sri Lankan port city of Tricomalee, there were reports of 320 deaths. Further south in popular tourist resort of Galle, there were around 200 deaths, according to police and hospital sources.

Eyewitnesses in Tricomalee reported waves as high as 40 feet (12 meters), hitting inland as far as half a mile.

India's Interior Minister Shivraj Patil said at least 1,000 Indians had been killed by the massive waves. A resident of Madras in Tamil Nadu district -- one of the hardest hit areas -- said he witnessed several people being swept away by a tidal wave there.

In southern Thailand, some 200 were killed on the island of Phi Phi, between Thailand's coastal area and the resort island of Phuket, where at least 48 were killed, according to the deputy governor. One witness said Phuket's Laguna Beach resort area is "completely gone."

NEIC geophysicist Don Blakeman said there was also a report that an entire coastal village in Thailand was destroyed by a tsunami.

Over 450 people were killed in 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.

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 nine aftershocks.

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 6.1 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.

CNN Correspondents Aneesh Raman in Bangkok and Suhasini Haidar in New Delhi contributed to this report

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http://www.cnn.com /2004/ WORLD/ asiapcf/ 12/26/ asia.quake/ index.html

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