ring of death - Philip
Cornford, Connie Levett in Bangkok, Anne Davies, Malcolm
Brown and agencies
- 27th December 2004
The Sydney Morning Herald)
A 10-metre-high wall of water set
off by a huge earthquake drowned more than 6300
people in six countries, swept away scores of
tourists and villagers on Thai islands and left
thousands homeless in South-East Asia.
region was bracing last night for more tidal waves
from the after-shock after the underwater quake
- at 8.9 on the Richter scale the world's fifth
biggest in 100 years - sent a tsunami racing yesterday
quakes started off the tip of Indonesia's Sumatra
island and sent massive waves across the Bay of
Bengal and the Andaman Sea, killing an estimated
2200 people in Sri Lanka, almost 2000 in India
and hundreds more between the Maldives, Indonesia,
Thailand and Malaysia.
waves swept up to 100 tourists into the sea on
Thailand's most popular tourist island, Phuket,
at the resorts of Patong, Karon and Kata. Another
100 tourists on diving holidays on islands off
southern Thailand were missing, about 70 of them
in the famed Emeral Cave. "We don't know
whether they are dead or alive," an official
official death toll in Thailand was 223 last night,
with 2000 injured. "Nothing like this has
ever happened in our country before," said
the Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, who ordered
the evacuation of provinces in the south.
the worst hit was Sri Lanka, 1600 kilometres to
the west of the epicentre - because the tsunami
had more time to gather strength before hitting
land. The death toll was 2200, with 1 million
more affected, about 5 per cent of the population.
"I think this is the worst ever natural disaster
in Sri Lanka," said the National Disaster
Lanka's President declared a national disaster
as thousands fled the coast.
spokesman for the Sri Lankan military said half
the navy's eastern fleet was looking for survivors.
The navy said its base at Trincomalee, on the
north-eastern coast, was under water.
southern India the toll was almost 2000, with
1625 killed in the state of Tamil Nadu alone,
more than 100 of which were in Chennai. The city's
police chief said: "The bodies in the hospital
are mostly young women and children."
fishermen were also reported missing.
death toll in Indonesia was put at 1873, with
the province of Aceh, on the north-western tip
of Sumatra, bearing the brunt. Entire villages
and towns were swept away and thousands were scrambling
for higher ground. On the island of Nias, a surfing
mecca for Australians off Sumatra's west coast,
75 bodies had been recovered.
Australian boat captain, Edward Shiels, who was
on the coast of Sumatra when the earthquake hit,
told Channel Seven last night: "Basically
the waters just drained out of the bay."
Malaysia 29 people were killed, 21 of them in
the popular tourist island of Penang.
number of dead was climbing rapidly last night
as reports from remote areas came in.
the Maldives two-thirds of the capital, Male,
was under water. Much of the Maldives, a string
of 1192 coral atolls off the south-western coast
of India, was inundated. A spokesman for the Maldives
Government, Ahmed Shaheed, said: "The damage
is considerable. [Male] is only about three feet
above sea level and a wave of water four feet
high swept over us."
were no reports of Australian casualties, but
Australian diplomatic staff in Thailand, Sri Lanka,
Indonesia and India were calling hotels and hospitals
in areas where Australians were believed to be
staying. A spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Department
said its staff in Bangkok, Jakarta, New Delhi
and Colombo were taking urgent steps to locate
West Australian state MP, John Hyde, on Phuket,
told ABC television: "Suddenly the streets
are awash and people just running and screaming
from the beach. And all the windows are blown
Australian, Simon Morse, was in a Phuket pub watching
the cricket when it hit. "People were getting
swept along still on their motorbikes on their
sides. There were cars that had been picked up
by the storm surge and they were getting pushed
down the road."
is peak tourist season in Thailand, and the rest
of South-East Asia, and the resorts were booked
solid for Christmas.
geophysicist, Julie Martinez, said of the quake:
"We've just updated it to 8.9 magnitude [from
8.5]. That makes it the fifth largest earthquake
Aceh panic-stricken people were jolted awake at
6.30am local time. "The ground was shaking
for a long time," said a witness, Yayan Zamzani.
said last night the earthquake could have been
triggered by a tremor that struck 800 kilometres
south of Tasmania on Christmas Eve. A spokesman
for Geoscience Australia, Cvetan Sinadinovski,
said Australia and Indonesia were connected by
the Indo-Australian tectonic plate, and "the
release of energy on one side of the plate could
cause a release of energy on the other side".
Sydney Morning Herald