Skip to comments.Asian Tsunamis Kill at Least 20,000 People
Posted on 12/26/2004 8:57:28 PM PST by TexKat
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 more than 13,340 people and left millions homeless in the fourth-largest temblor in a century.
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.
Signs of the carnage were everywhere: Dozens of bodies still clad in swimming trunks lined beaches in Thailand. Villagers in Indonesia picked through the debris of destroyed houses amid the smell of rotting corpses. Hundreds of prisoners escaped a coastal jail in Sri Lanka.
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.
John Krueger, 34, of Winter Park, Colorado, described being inside his bungalow Sunday on Khao Luk Beach, north of Phuket, with his wife, Romina Canton, 26, of Rosario, Argentina, when the water filled it and blew it apart.
"The water rushed under the bungalow, brought our floor up and raised us to the ceiling. The water blew out our doors, our windows and the back concrete wall. My wife was swept away with the wall, and I had to bust my way through the roof," Krueger said while waiting to talk to a U.S. Embassy official at Phuket City Hall. "It was like being in a washing machine."
Canton was dragged into the ocean for more than an hour until a wave brought her back to land again, with a broken nose and foot scratches all over her body, Krueger 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.
An Associated Press reporter in Aceh province saw bodies wedged in trees as the waters receded. More bodies littered the beaches. Authorities said at least 4,448 were dead in Indonesia; the full impact of the disaster was not known, as communications were cut to the towns most affected.
The waves barreled across the Bay of Bengal, pummeling Sri Lanka, where more than 4,500 were reported killed at least 3,000 in areas controlled by the government and about 1,500 in regions controlled by rebels, who listed the death toll on their Web site. There was an unconfirmed report of 500 more deaths on another Web site that provided no details. Some 170 children were feared lost in an orphanage. More than a million people were displaced from wrecked villages.
Devinda R. Subasinghe, the Sri Lanka ambassador to the United States, said the extensive damage will make the rescue effort more difficult. "It's going to take time to figure out access to these areas that have been impacted," Subasinghe said Monday in an interview on CNN. Up to 70 percent of the island's coastline was damaged, he said.
There was sporadic, small-scale looting in the towns of Galle and Matara, and authorities said about 200 inmates escaped from a prison, taking advantage of the chaos after guards panicked and fled when water entered the building.
About 2,300 were reported dead along the southern coasts of India. The private Aaj Tak television channel put the death toll there at up to 3,300, but the report could not be confirmed. At least 431 in Thailand, 48 in Malaysia and 32 in the Maldives, a string of coral islands off the southwestern coast of India. At least two died in Bangladesh children who drowned as a boat with about 15 tourists capsized in high waves.
In India's Andhra Pradesh state, at least 32 Hindu devotees were drowned when they went into the sea for a religious ceremony to mark the full moon. Among them were 15 children. On Monday, bodies of women and children lay strewn on the sand.
"I was shocked to see innumerable fishing boats flying on the shoulder of the waves, going back and forth into the sea, as if made of paper," said P. Ramanamurthy, 40, of that state.
In Cuddalore, in the worst-hit Tamil Nadu state, survivors huddled Monday in a marriage hall turned makeshift shelter, as fire engine sirens whined outside. Broken boats law on the shore near smashed huts with only frail bamboo frames jutting out of the ground.
The earthquake that caused the tsunami was the largest since a 9.2 temblor hit Prince William Sound in Alaska in 1964, according to geophysicist Julie Martinez of the U.S. Geological Survey.
"All the planet is vibrating" from the quake, said Enzo Boschi, the head of Italy's National Geophysics Institute. Speaking on SKY TG24 TV, Boschi said the quake even disturbed the Earth's rotation.
The quake occurred at a place where several huge geological plates push against each other with massive force. The survey said a 620-mile section along the boundary of the plates shifted, motion that triggered the sudden displacement of a huge volume of water.
Scientists said the death toll might have been reduced if India and Sri Lanka had been part of an international warning system designed to advise coastal communities that a potentially killer wave was approaching. Although Thailand is part of the system, the west coast of its southern peninsula does not have the system's wave sensors mounted on ocean buoys.
As it was, there was no warning. Gemunu Amarasinghe, an AP photographer in Sri Lanka, said he saw young boys rushing to catch fish that had been scattered on the beach by the first wave.
"But soon afterward, the devastating second series of waves came," he said. He climbed onto the roof of his car, but "In a few minutes my jeep was under water. The roof collapsed.
"I joined masses of people in escaping to high land. Some carried their dead and injured loved ones. Some of the dead were eventually placed at roadside, and covered with sarongs. Others walked past dazed, asking if anyone had seen their family members."
Michael Dobbs, a reporter for The Washington Post, was swimming around a tiny island off a Sri Lankan beach at about 9:15 a.m. when his brother called out that something strange was happening with the sea.
Then, within minutes, "the beach and the area behind it had become an inland sea, rushing over the road and pouring into the flimsy houses on the other side. The speed with which it all happened seemed like a scene from the Bible a natural phenomenon unlike anything I had experienced before," he wrote on the Post's Web site.
Dobbs weathered the wave, but then found himself struggling to keep from being swept away when the floodwaters receded.
The international airport was closed in the Maldives after a tidal wave that left 51 people missing in addition to the 32 dead.
Indonesia, a country of 17,000 islands, is prone to seismic upheaval because of its location on the margins of tectonic plates that make up the so-called the "Ring of Fire" around the Pacific Ocean basin.
The Indonesian quake struck just three days after an 8.1 quake along the ocean floor between Australia and Antarctica caused buildings to shake hundreds of miles away. The earlier temblor caused no serious damage or injury.
Quakes reaching a magnitude 8 are very rare. A quake registering magnitude 8 rocked Japan's northern island of Hokkaido on Sept. 25, 2003, injuring nearly 600 people. An 8.4 magnitude tremor that struck off Peru on June 23, 2001, killed 74.
Video grab shows a tidal wave in Penang after tsunami waves hit southern Asia on Sunday in this amateur video footage taken December 26, 2004. Soldiers searched for bodies in treetops, families wept over the dead lined up on beaches and rescuers scoured coral isles for missing tourists after an earthquake, as Asia counted the cost on Monday of a tsunami that saw tidal waves kill more than 13, 400. REUTERS/Amateur Video Grab
A mother grieves as another relative carries the body of a child washed ashore at Silver Beach in Cuddalore, in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, Monday, Dec. 27, 2004. Massive tidal waves triggered by an Indonesian earthquake slammed into southern India Sunday, killing nearly 2,300 people and sweeping away boats, homes and vehicles. The worst affected area was Tamil Nadu state, where 1,705 people were killed. (AP Photo/Gurinder Osan)
---lesson learned: If you see the water recede significantly, run for higher ground---
What? and ignore all the great beachcombing?
This is heartbreaking, TexKat. Thanks for posting the update.
The size of this disaster boggles the mind.
I know. As I have been enjoying my evening, thousands of people have been suffering.
[TamilNet, December 26, 2004 21:29 GMT]
We went from the hospital to retrieve some bodies of people killed by the first wave near the Pandiruppu beach. We saw at a distance another massive wave, more than hundred feet high, speeding towards Kalmunaikudi. It was like a diagonal wall rising out of the sea. The sight was terrible. We ran for our lives. I do not believe that anything could have survived the force of that wave, said a doctor at the Kalmunai base hospital Monday.
Doctor Murugesapillai Baghavan said he believed that scale of death and destruction in the Pandiruppu, Kalmunaikudi area could be much greater than what has been assessed so far.
The wave would have sucked homes and people back into the sea. Few could have resisted its force. We think that whole areas have been buried under sand dug up by the waves power, Dr. Baghavan said.
More than a thousand injured people have been treated at the Kalmunai Base Hospital until Sunday night, he added. The hospital mortuary is full. We are piling up bodies outside the hospital,
Seriously wounded patients have been sent to Amparai town. Evacuation is severely hindered by people who have crowded in their thousands on the main road in Kalmunai and Pandiruppu.
About hundred and sixteen bodies have been recovered so far in Thirukkovil, the large Tamil village 74 kilometres south of Batticaloa. More than hundred and fifty bodies have been recovered in Ninthavur, a Muslim, Tamil village near
If you visit an oceanfront beach without checking for quakes of Richter 4.4 or better at sites in direct (uninterdicted by land masses) line with your chosen beach within the past 48 hrs, you has done scrod up bigtime.
Direct line is the key; the folks at the beaches on the N/NW coast of Sri Lanka, for example, were not affected, probably had a very nice sun & swim. Those who were enjoying the beach on the SE coast are dead or missing.
Now there is concern of disease due to lack of safe drinking water.
The United Nations warned today of epidemics within days if health systems could not cope. Experts said the top issues were water, sanitation, food, shelter and health, and warned that the effects of disease could be as bad as the tsunami itself.
Now that is very fascinating!
That says the initial quake did not cause the tsunami immediately but a subsequent event, like the collapse of an undersea trench that suddenly displaced a great mass of water.....assuming the timing is the arrival at the Thailand beaches.
I'd seen it mentioned earlier on the tv, that the wave traveled at a speed of 500 m.p.h.. Unbelievable and so sad for the people that were hit with this.
see my post above about the timing.
A road is damaged by a powerful earlthquake in Lhokseumawe in northern Sumatra's Aceh province December 26, 2004. Indonesian soldiers searched fort bodies in tree tops and in smashed home on Monday, a day after a tsunami triggered by a huge earthquake tore through northern Sumatra island killing at least 4,448 people. Picture taken December 26, 2004. NO ARCHIVE, NO SALE REUTERS/Waspada Daily
The scene at the Marina beach in Madras after tidal waves hit the region. The death toll from an earthquake off Indonesia and tsunamis that it unleashed reached 13,773 as officials reported deaths in seven countries in southern and southeastern Asia(AFP)
Bodies of victims who were killed by tidal waves lie at the Government Hospital mortuary in Nagappattinam, about 250 kilometers (156 miles) south of Madras, in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, Monday, Dec. 27, 2004. Massive tidal waves triggered by an Indonesian earthquake slammed into southern India Sunday, killing nearly 2,300 people and sweeping away boats, homes and vehicles. The worst affected area was Tamil Nadu state, where 1,705 people were killed. (AP Photo/Gautam Singh)
Foreign tourists staying in Phi Phi island arrive in Phuket , southern Thailand for treatment, December 26, 2004. One of the most powerful earthquakes in history hit Asia on Sunday, unleashing a tsunami which devastated coastal areas of Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia and tourist isles in Thailand, killing more than 11,300 people. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom
Aerial view of the scene at the Marina beach in Madras after tidal waves caused by an earthquake in Indonesia hit the region.(AFP/Str)
Indian bystanders watch rescue operations at the Marina beach in Madras after tidal waves hit the region, throwing a car onto a road barrier.(AFP/Str)
An unidentified mother cries near the bodies of her daughters who died in tidal waves at Kanyakumari, in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, Sunday, Dec. 26, 2004. More than 9,300 people across Asia were killed Sunday after one of the most powerful earthquakes on record triggered massive tidal waves that slammed into coastlines in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India, Thailand and Malaysia. (AP Photo/Str)
People stand near bodies of victims who died in tidal waves, to identify them, at the Royapettah Government hospital in Madras, India, Sunday, Dec. 26, 2004. Thousands of people across Asia were killed Sunday after one of the most powerful earthquakes on record triggered massive tidal waves that slammed into coastlines in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India, Thailand and Malaysia. (AP Photo/Gurinder Osan)
People stop and watch the aftermath of the Dec 26 tidal wave that washed off the resort island in Phuket, southern Thailand, Monday, Dec 27, 2004. The tidal waves and flooding in Thailand were induced by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake, the world's strongest in 40 years, which originated in Indonesian waters but wreaked devastation along the southern shores of Asia, killing more than 13,300. (AP Photo/John W. Ishii)
Vehicles turns over and debris littered in the street in Phuket, southern Thailand after the Dec 26 tidal wave washed the resort island, Monday, Dec 27, 2004. The tidal waves and flooding in Thailand were induced by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake, the world's strongest in 40 years, which originated in Indonesian waters but wreaked devastation along the southern shores of Asia, killing more than 13,300. (AP Photo/John W. Ishii)
And, of course, Howard Dean has blamed this on global warming.
He can't get to Hell soon enough.
I have been seening articles regarding an earthquake hitting somewhere for the past 2 or 3 days, perhaps since Thursday evening. I'll see if I can find it.
You know this is sad and I pray for those that have lost love ones.
The CNN ticker says that the Tsunamis can travel as fast as 600 mph in the deepest water but that they slow down to around 30 to 40 mph as they approach the shoreline.
They are reporting that the quake ripped a 1000 kilometer hole (about 621 miles) in earth's crust.
CNN (not the headline channel HNN) is covering it live tonight.
Also there were some 2000 fishermen out overall when this happened. Many of the bodies washing up on shore in some areas are the fishermen.
I wonder if there was any cruise ships in the area when this happened?
Moved the entire island of Sumatra about 100 feet toward the southwest; first tsunami in the Indian Ocean since 1883...
Wonder how much the seafloor was reshaped.....
I have heard this...
They are reporting that the quake ripped a 1000 kilometer hole (about 621 miles) in the earth's crust.
On the last two pictures, I have stayed several times in Phuket, about a 5 minute walk from where those pics were shot. My hotel most likely didn't get hit, but its scary. About 3.5 weeks ago, I was in Krabi, which also got hit, I hope the scuba company I was with didn't get hit while at sea.
I'm still stunned....
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