Latest estimates indicate that more than 12,000 people have been killed and tens of thousands left homeless by tsunami waves that may have measured as high as 150 feet. The waves were generated by an enormous undersea earthquake, which measured about 8.9 on the Richter scale; the largest recorded quake in 40 years (the '64 Alaska earthquake was similar in size).
|"I just couldn't believe what was happening before my eyes," Boree Carlsson said from a hotel in the Thai resort of Phuket.
"As I was standing there, a car actually floated into the lobby and overturned because the current was so strong," said the 45-year-old Swede.
"I heard an eerie sound that I have never heard before. It was a high pitched sound followed by a deafening roar," said a 55-year-old Indian fishermen who gave his name as Chellappa. "I told everyone to run for their life."
In Indonesia, an archipelago of 17,000 islands, one official said nearly 4,500 people had died. The worst affected area was Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh province, where 3,000 were killed. More than 200 prisoners escaped from a jail when the tsunami knocked down its walls.
In Sri Lanka, the death toll also reached 4,500 and 1 million people, or 5 percent of its population, were affected. It was the worst natural disaster to hit Sri Lanka.
In southern India, where at least 3,000 were estimated to have died, beaches were littered with submerged cars and wrecked boats. Shanties on the coast were under water.
Thai government officials said at least 392 bodies had been retrieved and they expected the final toll to approach 1,000.
NO WARNING SYSTEM
In Los Angeles, the head of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said U.S. officials who detected the undersea quake tried frantically to get a warning out about the tsunami.
But there was no official alert system in the region, said Charles McCreery, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's center in Honolulu.
"It took an hour and a half for the wave to get from the earthquake to Sri Lanka and an hour for it to get ... to the west coast of Thailand and Malaysia," he said. "You can walk inland for 15 minutes to get to a safe area." ...
...The tsunami was so powerful it smashed boats and flooded areas along the east African coast, 3,728 miles away.
SCALE OF DISASTER NOT YET KNOWN
Aid agencies said with communications cut to remote areas, it was impossible to assess the full scale of the disaster.
The Geneva-based International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said it was seeking 7.5 million Swiss francs ($6.5 million) for emergency aid funding...
Asian Tsunami Kills 12,300, Many More Homeless and Red Cross