M A I N   N E W S

3,300 die as tidal waves hit southern coast
2,000 dead in Tamil Nadu, 1,000 in Andaman and Nicobar
Arup Chanda and Ramesh Kandula
Tribune News Service

Chennai/Hyderabad, December 26
Around 3,300 persons, including 2,000 in Tamil Nadu and 1,000 in Andaman and Nicobar, were today killed and several hundreds reported missing when high tidal waves triggered by a massive earthquake in Indonesia lashed the southern Indian coast.

While 69 persons were killed in Andhra Pradesh, 113 deaths were reported from Kerala, and over 100 from Pondichery.

Around 2000 persons were killed and another 1500 were feared dead while 20,000 had been rendered homeless as a huge tidal wave hit the coastal areas of Tamil Nadu this morning.

A state of alert has been declared in all the 13 coastal districts of Tamil Nadu and rescue and relief operations are being carried out as many were also injured and their homes destroyed.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa conducted an aerial survey of the affected areas and visited the Marina beach here, the world’s second largest beach, which was the worst affected.

She said 1567 persons were killed in Tamil Nadu alone and announced an ex-gratia of Rs 1 lakh each for those killed.

Ms Jayalalithaa said, “It was an extra-ordinary natural calamity. Everything happened in just 20 minutes.”

The death likely to cross the 4000 mark when more bodies are likely to be recovered during tomorrow’s rescue operations.

Other than the deaths in this state, the death toll in the adjoining Union Territory of Pondicherry and Karaikal is expected to be around 400.

The Coast Guard and the Indian Navy have been pressed into service for rescue operations and helicopters were being used to search for the bodies in sea.

Among those missing majority were fishermen who usually sail into the sea at the break of dawn and feared to have been gobbled up along with their boats by the massive wave.

The huge tidal wave, described in Japanese as tsunami, hit the coastal areas of the state at 6.40 am preceded by a tremor, which rocked the city at 6.35 am. The killer tidal wave is the fifth largest since 1900 and the strongest in the last 40 years in the world.

Among the coastal districts of Tamil Nadu this metropolis was the worst hit with a large number of people present on the Marina beach as it was a Sunday and large number of fishermen’s villages are located along the beach.

According to eye-witnesses since it was Sunday many people had gone to the beach to jog or walk and it was crowded with children playing cricket or practising martial arts or engaged in football practice.

Said Preeti Das, a television journalist who goes for her morning walk everyday, “I was walking on the road along the beach and suddenly I saw this huge wave around 150 feet coming down from the sky. Within a few minutes all those people on the beach were washed away.

“The beach was more crowded than usual days since it was a Sunday. Other than the daily joggers and walkers there were a large number of children and people who came to walk their dogs. In a moment all of them with their dogs, balls and bats were swept away. The worst hit were the lovers who usually nested themselves on the sides of the boats on the beach with their back to the sea. They did not even know what hit them,” she said.

Though this premier city of south India was worst hit with 150 dead and large number of properties damaged because of the density of population along the beach, the coastal district of Nagapattinam, 250 km from here, till now suffered the highest casualty with 788 dead and many more missing.

Next was Cuddalore, around 125 km from here, where the tsunami wrought devastation with 290 deaths, many injured and properties destroyed.

In Pondicherry and Karaikal 69 and 211 persons died respectively and many are still missing and feared to have perished in the sea.

Pondicherry Chief secretary, Mr C.S. Khairwal, said, “The total death toll is expected to touch 400.”

In Kanyakumari district around 261 persons died majority of them belonging to a small port town of Kolachel and many more missing. Because of high tide due to the full moon the rescue operations there were affected.

In the Kancheepuram district, 70 km from here, 59 persons died including those who were inside a church praying when it collapsed and at Kalpakkam, where the Madras Atomic Power Station (MAPS) is located The sea water entered the nuclear power plant but the unit II of the plant, which was hit by the tsunami, was brought to safe shutdown this morning.

Around 41 persons died in the other coastal districts of the state bringing the total death toll to around 2000 in Tamil Nadu and neighbouring Pondicherry and Karaikal, which is expected to rise as rescue operations continue.

A large number of hutments in fishermen’s villages along the city coastline and many belonging to casual workers in the metropolis were destroyed as the wave it the localities.

Within minutes sea water gushed four kilometres into the city submerging many localities leading to panic among the people.

After the tsunami hit the city water crossed the Beach Road and entered all buildings including the state police headquarters and offices of the All India Radio and many other government and educational institutions.

Not only were people killed and properties damaged but such was the force of the impact that the boats and vehicles including buses parked near the beach were either overturned or washed up on to the docks.

All those whose huts were washed away in this city were being housed in schools and government buildings and food packets were distributed among them.

The government hospitals and the mortuaries in the city were full with dead bodies being brought in throughout the day and large number of people thronging trying to find out their missing relations and friends.

This being the tourist season particularly in Pondicherry, a large number of tourists visiting the Union Territory and the popular beach resort 60 km south of Chennai, Mahabalipuram were affected due to this catastrophe.

At the southern most tip of India more than 500 tourists, including Mr Justice G.P. Mathur of the Supreme Court were stranded on the Vivekananda Rock Memorial at Kanyakumari.

After the tidal waves struck the area no boats were available to bring them. Later, they were rescued back in helicopters.

Meanwhile, the Union Minister for IT and Telecommunications, Mr Dayanidhi Maran, and Union Minister of State for Petroleum, Mr Mani Shankar Aiyer, arrived here this afternoon to oversee rescue and relief operations on behalf of the Central Government.

HYDERABAD: The entire coastal belt in Andhra Pradesh was today battered by massive tidal waves, triggered by an earthquake in Indonesia. The surging billows left at least 69 persons dead while hundreds of fishermen went missing as seawater entered several villages in the close vicinity of the coastline.

The frenzied waves wreaked havoc all along the 1,000-km coastline of the state, spread over nine districts, but Prakasam and Krishna districts bore the brunt. While, the death toll has been officially put at 53, it may go up as at least 1,000 fishermen were missing in Prakasam, Krishna, Nellore and East Godavari districts.

Twenty-five bodies were recovered from the Manginapudi beach in Krishna district while 21 deaths were reported from Prakasam district, five from Nellore and two from West Godavari district, the state Revenue Minister, Mr D. Prasada Rao, said here.

Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy flew by a helicopter to the worst-affected areas in Prakasam, Krishna and Guntur districts where he personally supervised relief operations. He announced an amount of Rs 1 lakh as ex gratia for the victim’s families.

The sudden burst of tidal waves and tremors took the state administration by complete surprise as all coastal districts from Nellore bordering Tamil Nadu to Srikakulam on the north coast on the Orissa border suffered the damage. The seawater gushed into villages in Nellore, Prakasam, Krishna, East Godavari, West Godavari and Visakhapatnam districts. Water from the Bay of Bengal entered the coastal city, triggering panic among residents. The panic-stricken people rushed out of their homes as the tremors jolted buildings.

A report from Machilipatnam, quoting Krishna District Collector Prabhakar Reddy, said 25 bodies were found on the Manginapudi beach where over 150 persons had gathered to take a holy dip on the eve of full moon day of the holy month of ‘Mrigasirsa’. “The entire administration is on the move and we are fully geared up to meet the situation. A massive evacuation is on to move people from low-lying areas of coastal districts to safer places,” the Chief Minister said before leaving for aerial survey of the affected areas.

Agencies add:
At least 113 persons were killed and nearly 600 injured as huge tidal waves, triggered by this morning’s massive earthquake in the Indian Ocean, engulfed several coastal areas of Kerala, leaving behind a trail of death and destruction.

Police officials told UNI here that 84 persons were killed in the worst-hit Kollam district, followed by 19 in Alappuzha and three in Ernakulam districts.

The toll could rise as some of the injured were in a serious condition, the police said.

The state Cabinet will review the situation tomorrow morning. The state government also announced a compensation of Rs 50,000 for next of kin of those killed in the tragedy.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy visited Karunagapally, which alone accounted for 64 deaths, and the Kollam, Ochara, Kayamkulam and Alappuzha areas while his Cabinet colleagues, Mr Dominic Presentation, visited the affected areas in Ernakulam, Mr K.C. Venugopal Alappuzha and Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan Kollam.

The administration also warned tourists against venturing close to the sea as the conditions continued to be rough. A similar warning was issued to the fishermen also.

State DGP P.K. Hormis Tharakan was reviewing the rescue and relief operations.

Thousands of people, including 2,000 from the fishing harbour of Vizhinjam near the famous Kovalam beach resort, were being evacuated to safer areas after their villages were inundated by sea waters.

Pondicherry: Over 100 persons were killed in Pondicherry and the Karaikal region of the Union Territory following tidal waves sweeping into the fishermen hamlets, Chief Minister N Rangasamy said.

PORT BLAIR: Andaman and Nicobar, closest to Sumatra coast, the epicentre of the 8.9-magnitude quake on the Richter Scale, was also badly hit accounting for 1,000 deaths, including 23 Air Force personnel and members of their families, and suffering extensive damage. Communication with the Car Nicobar Island has been completely snapped and it would take another 24 to 48 hours to re-establish it.

The Andaman and Nicobar islands were jolted by the earthquake between 6.30 to 6.35 am on Sunday morning, which were followed by tidal waves.

BHUBANESWAR: Huge waves crashed against the Orissa coast and houses and buildings rocked momentarily as a “great intensity quake” rattled several districts triggering panic on Sunday morning, official sources said.

There was, however, no report of any loss of life or damage to property except unconfirmed information that houses in a few places had developed cracks.


Asian quake ‘fifth largest’ since 1900

Washington, December 26
The earthquake that shook southern Asia today was one of the most powerful since the start of the 20th century, the US Geological Survey said.

“We’ve just updated it to 8.9 magnitude. That makes it the fifth largest earthquake since 1900,” said Julie Martinez, geophysicist for the US Geological Survey’s Earthquake Hazards Programme in Golden, Colorado.

It was the largest quake in the world since 1964, she said. That year, a major earthquake hit Alaska’s Prince William Sound.

“These big earthquakes, when they occur in shallow water, ...basically slosh the ocean floor ... and it’s as if you’re rocking water in the bathtub and that wave can travel basically throughout the ocean,” USGS geophysicist Bruce Presgrave said.

He said there had been no signs of the impending quake.

“Unfortunately, we are not able to predict earthquakes at this time and one of the big reasons is typically these big earthquakes occur with no warning, no foreshock activity or anything like that,” he added.

As the Earth moves and its plates hit each other, it breaks in one place and pressure builds up in a different area, Martinez said. When that pressure increases, another earthquake occurs. — Reuters


Special relief flights to Port Blair

New Delhi, December 26
Indian Airlines (IA) will operate three special relief flights with 119-seater Boeing-737 from Kolkata to Port Blair and two flights from Chennai on December 27 and 28.

The announcement came following tremors and tidal waves along the country’s east coast that killed about 1,000 persons today.

IA has set up special cells at Kolkata, Chennai and New Delhi with the following telephone numbers: Kolkata 22116869 and 22110041, Chennai 22560022, New Delhi 25674270 and 25672226.

Two IA flights from Kolkata to Port Blair operated normally today — one with B-737 and one with A-320. But a Chennai-Port Blair-Chennai flight scheduled to operate with Airbus-320 was cancelled. — UNI

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