12/26/2004, 00.00
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Earthquake and tsunami kill more than 400 people in Aceh and North Sumatra

by Mathias Hariyadi
In addition to the dead in Indonesia, mostly fishermen swallowed up by the waters' fury, some 2,000 people die in Sri Lanka, 1,000 in India, 150 in Thailand, 17 in Malaysia. Initial reports are just coming in from Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono expressed grave concern over the tragedy that swept the coastal area of Aceh and North Sumatra Province. An earthquake measuring 8.9 on the Richter scale caused a tsunami that swept away hundreds of houses and claimed scores of lives among fishermen in the coastal region in both Aceh and North Sumatra Province. 

President Yudhoyono ordered Vice President Jussuf Kalla to Aceh to organise with central and local authorities the rescue operation.

The President himself was visiting the Nabire region in Papua which had been hit by another quake a month ago.

At least 400 Indonesians—mostly local fishermen—are feared dead, so are some 1,500 Sri Lankans, 1,000 Indians, 150 Thai, and 17 Malaysians. Initial reports are also coming in from Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Local sources say that the death toll is bound to rise.

Power and telephone lines are down preventing the authorities to get an overall view of the situation. At least 40,000 phones lines are no longer in use in the region.

So far 165 people are thought to have died in Pidie (Aceh), 63 on Nias Island, 95 in Bireuen (Aceh), 131 in Lhokseumawe, and at least 54 in North Sumatra.

Most of the victims were fishermen out at sea swallowed up by the tsunami, or coastal residents swept away from their homes by the surging waters.

According to Daing Kamarullah, resident of Aceh's capital Banda Aceh and a member of Radio Networking, hundreds of homes were destroyed by the waves, some reaching 10 metres (33 feet).

Bireuen's Mayor, Mustafa Gelanggang, said waves swept away at least 49 fishermen. In some areas, ocean water flooding two to three metres high lasted for hours.

In Deli Serdang and Nias, 51 bodies have been recovered by the afternoon, this according to North Sumatra Governor Rizal Tengku Nurdin.

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