Tsunami Death Toll Tops 116,000 – India Warns of New Wave
The death toll from Sunday’s tsunamis has jumped sharply to over 116,000 after Indonesia reported nearly 80,000 people were killed in that country alone. U.N. relief workers arrived in Indonesia’s Aceh province to find devastation in the region closest to the epicenter of the earthquake that spawned the killer tsunamis. Emergency workers reported that in some parts of Aceh, as many as one in every four citizens was dead.
Scenes of destruction — homes and businesses flattened, buses tossed about like toys, piles of rubble filling the streets — were repeated across the region, as were the scenes of grief — residents and vacationers searching in vain for loved ones, or, at times, finding them in makeshift morgues.
Aceh province, nearly inaccessible in the best of times because of its remoteness and the presence for years of an armed insurgency, was even more cut off after Sunday’s disaster.
Unbelievable. And it could get worse:
Despite the apparent absence of any major seismological activity, Indian authorities have warned people in coastal areas to head for higher ground, four days after giant waves triggered by a massive earthquake killed at least 10,000 Indians. Reports of Thursday’s warning triggered panic in the streets of Port Blair, the regional capital of India’s remote Andaman Islands, where the death toll from Sunday’s tsunamis is expected to rise. Sri Lanka said it would follow suit, but then quickly decided against issuing any evacuation orders.
India’s central alert said there was evidence from foreign experts that a powerful earthquake could occur Thursday afternoon near Australia, triggering another tsunami in the Indian Ocean, according to a report from state-run Press Trust of India. The U.S. Geological Survey, which monitors earthquake activity around the world, said it had not recorded any major activity that would spawn a tsunami. “We have not located any large earthquakes or aftershocks in recent hours,” USGS geophysicist John Minsch told CNN at 1 p.m. Thursday New Delhi time (2:30 a.m. ET).
There have been more than 70 aftershocks recorded on the Web site from Sunday’s quake. The strongest measured 7.1, but most have been between 5 and 6 in magnitude. None have produced any tsunamis.
One can hardly blame the authorities for overreacting somewhat in the wake of this disaster.