Death Toll in Asian Disaster Approaches 60,000
GALLE (Reuters)–Armenian prime minister Andranik Margarian sent condolences to the prime ministers of Sri Lanka–Malaysia–Thailand–Bangladesh–and India to express Armenia’s anguish over the thousands of deaths and the scale of the destruction caused by Sunday’s monster tsunami.
The sea and wreckage of coastal towns around the Indian Ocean yielded up tens of thousands of bodies on Tuesday–pushing the toll to 60,000.
The apocalyptic destruction caused by the ocean surge dwarfed the efforts of governmen’s and relief agencies as they recovered countless corpses while trying to treat survivors and take care of millions of homeless–increasingly threatened by disease amid the rotting remains. Thousands more were injured.
The United Nations launched what it called an unprecedented relief effort to assist nations hit by a devastating tsunami triggered by a magnitude 9.0 undersea earthquake off the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
In a further threat to the region–disease could kill as many people as those killed by the wall of water–a top World Health Organization (WHO) official said.
While grieving families in wrecked coastal towns and resorts buried their loved ones–others–including many foreign tourists–searched for friends and relatives still missing.
In Thailand–where thousands of tourists were enjoying a Christmas break to escape the northern winter–many of the country’s paradise resorts were turned into graveyards.
In Sri Lanka–hundreds of people were killed when a wave crashed into a train–wrecking eight carriages and uprooting the track it was traveling on. The train was called "Sea Queen".
Of the overall death toll so far of 59,186–Indonesia has suffered the biggest number of victims–with its Health Ministry reporting 27,174 dead.
Nearly all the deaths in Indonesia were in the northwestern province of Aceh at the tip of Sumatra. Rescue crews were still trying to reach cut off areas. Separatist rebels announced a truce while people search for loved ones.
Sri Lanka reported around 19,000 dead. India’s toll of 11,500 included at least 7,000 on one archipelago–the Andamans and Nicobar. On one island–the surge of water killed two-thirds of the population.
Hundreds of others died in the Maldives–Myanmar and Malaysia. The arc of water struck as far as Somalia and Kenya. Fishing villages–ports and resorts were devastated–power and communications cut and homes destroyed. The United Nations said the cost of the damage will reach billions of dollars.
The tremor–the biggest in 40 years–ripped a chasm in the sea bed which launched the tsunami–possibly the deadliest in more than 200 years.