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Home >> World
UPDATED: 16:51, December 27, 2004
Sri Lanka Tsunami death toll climbs to nearly 6,000
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At least 5,880 people have been killed in Sri Lanka as a huge tsunami triggered by the world's strongest earthquake in 40 years lashed coastlines of the country.

According to the defense military sources, 5,060 of the killed were found in government controlled area and 820 in the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) controlled area.

Massive tidal waves, caused by an earthquake measuring 8.7 on the Richter Scale, crashed into coastal villages over a wide area of Sri Lanka, killing thousands of people and displacing one million others.

The earthquake, the fourth-largest in a century, struck just before 8:00 a.m. local time (0100 GMT) off the west coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, about 1,620 km northwest of Jakarta,according to the Chinese State Seismological Bureau. It was followed by a half-dozen powerful aftershocks.

The disaster has also killed 70 foreign tourists to Sri Lanka, including at least nine Japanese, the state tourist board said on Monday.

"We airlifted them yesterday and we are taking fingerprints at the moment," said an official from the Sri Lanka Tourist Board.

Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga, who is on a private visit to Britain, cut short her visit to return home on Monday, according to the president office.

Kumaratunga has called for international assistance in the faceof the country's worst ever humanitarian disaster and declared a state of "national disaster."

Soon after the tidal waves hit, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa traveled to the southern coastal areas on a special Air Force helicopter, instructing local authorities to provide immediate relief to the people.

The towns of Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara along with the southern towns of Matara and Galle are the worst hit.

Some 25,000 soldiers and 10 helicopters have been sent to deliver aid and

rescue teams. The helicopters were dropping medicine and rescue teams to areas

not accessible by land, while soldiers were to help the local people in their

rescue work.

Social Services Minister Sumedha G. Jayasena said the government will provide all possible relief measures. The Social Services Ministry is open 24 hours.

Security forces said the affected people are now being evacuated to safe places.

Military sources said that 44 security personnel were killed and 17 troopers were missing in the country, and police said at least 300 prisoners in Matara escaped Monday morning as the powerful disaster battered the room of inmates.

The far-flung disaster has also hard hit coastal areas in India,Thailand, Malaysia, the Maldives and Bangladesh, leaving tens of thousands of people dead and millions of others displaced across southeast Asia.

Source: Xinhua

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