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UPDATED: 18:18, December 27, 2004
Death toll in Asia quake, tsunamis over 16,000
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The death toll in the killer tsunami tidal waves Monday rose rapidly to over 16,000 across South and South East Asia.

In Sri Lanka, at least 5,880 people died in the huge tsunami triggered by the earthquake off Indonesia Sunday, 5060 in government controlled area, 820 in LTTE controlled area, the defense military sources said Monday.

The worst tsunami has also killed 70 foreign tourists, including at least nine Japanese, the state tourist board said.

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

He said most of them had died in the island's eastern part and officials were hampered by damaged communication lines in their rescue efforts.

Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga who is on a private visit to Britain is to cut short her visit and to return to Sri Lanka, the president office said here earlier.

Kumaratunga has called for international assistance in the face of 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. He instructed 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.

Government relief agencies and Security Forces launched an immediate relief and rescue operation as the enormity of the disaster became apparent.

The President's Secretary, Public Security Ministry Secretary and Commanders of three Armed Forces are coordinating the relief effort. Steps have also been taken to widen the relief service operations jointly launched by the tree Armed Forces and Police.

A large number of Air Force helicopters and Navy boats have been deployed to rescue the affected people. Security forces said the affected people are now being evacuated to safe places.

Massive sea waves, triggered by an earthquakes in Southeast Asia, crashed into coastal villages over a wide area of Sri Lanka on Sunday, killing at least 2,500 people the same day and displacing one million others.

The number of deaths in India alone touched almost 5,000 as massive search and rescue operations were launched.

The death toll in India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands has climbed to more than 3,000, the Press Trust of India (PTI) reported Monday.

"More than 3,000 persons have been killed, it is now confirmed and the casualty may go up," PTI quoted a local police officer as saying.

He further said that the worst hit areas were the Car Nicobar and the Nancowrie group of islands and the situation is so bad that the rescue teams have not yet reached these places.

Car Nicobar has a population of around 19,000 and Nancowrie nearly 18,000, he said.

Describing the situation as very grim, he said the latest casualty figure was based on the bodies already recovered and those who were missing for more than 24 hours and were believed to be dead.

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands, located on the east coast of India, bore the brunt of the giant tsunami waves.

In Indonesia, at least 4,448 people have been killed by Sunday's powerful earthquake and massive tidal wave, health ministry officials said.

Most of the killed were residents of the Aceh capital of Banda Aceh, some 2,000 km west of Jakarta, officials said.

"We received the latest data at 06:00 (Monday)," said Nadyal Rusdal who heads the government-formed humanitarian team for victims of natural disaster.

He said death toll in Banda Aceh alone stood at around 3,000. They expected the death toll could reach 5,000.

Aceh, located at the northern tip of the Sumatara island, was the hardest hit by a tsunami, which was triggered by an 8.7-magnitude quake, according to Chinese State Seismological Bureau, off the Aceh coast.

"Residents in affected areas are being evacuated for fear of aftershocks," he said.

Thousands of soldiers have been mobilized to rescue survivors along the coastal areas Monday, officials said.

Meanwhile, the meteorology and geophysics agency (BMG) said it had recorded at least 60 minor aftershocks until 09:00 (02:00 GMT) Monday.

Jakarta's Metro TV station said tidal waves kicked up by the quake penetrated several kilometers inland to the city, filling streets with up to four meters of water after the earthquake.

The city urgently needed food, transportation and shelter as well as huge numbers of body bags for corpses.

In Thailand, at least 839 people were killed and more than 7,200 injured by the tsunami on Sunday morning in southern Thailand, the Thai Interior Ministry said Monday.

Earlier in the day, Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said around 700 people were killed by tidal waves.

Between 600 to 700 people were killed by strong waves hitting the country's southwest coast area, the prime minister said after an emergency meeting held in the heavily-hit resort island of Phuket.

"I have asked the army to prepare 1,000 body bags," he told reporters.

Thaksin, however, didn't give specific casualties caused by the tsunami triggered out by an earthquake in the sea close to northeastern Indonesia on Sunday morning.

Local media also quoted rescue workers as saying that around 300 people probably died in the isolated resort island of Phi Phi.

The Thai navy has sent warships and helicopters to rescue people trapped on the island and searched for those reportedly missing.

Many of the dead and missing were foreign tourists spending their Christmas vacation in Thailand's southwestern coast that is famous for idyllic scenery.

Maldives and Bangladesh also reported deaths of more than 30 people.

Tsunamis triggered by the massive earthquake in Indonesia smashed into coastal areas of the Indian Ocean ring nations Sunday, destroying villages and flooding cities.

The death toll is increasing as counting of bodies washed up on beaches is continuing while thousands were reported missing. Tens of thousands fled the coasts for higher ground, fearing aftershocks and further flood surges.

The powerful earthquake that shook off the cost of Indonesia's Aceh province on Sunday was the worst natural disaster after the 1883 eruption of Mountain Krakatau that killed 36,000 people in the country.

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