Taken from here. Sunday, December 26, 2004 Posted: 5:49 AM EST (1049 GMT)
(CNN) — The world’s most powerful earthquake in more than 50 years triggered massive tidal waves that slammed into villages and seaside resorts across Asia on Sunday, killing thousands across five countries.
The initial quake, measuring 8.9 in magnitude, struck about 100 miles (160 km) off the coast of Indonesia’s Sumatra island around 7 a.m. local time, according to the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Earthquake Information Center.
Over 1,500 people in Sri Lanka were killed after tidal waves devastated the country’s eastern coast, according to Colombo police.
Officials in the eastern district of Batticaloa reported 1,032 fatalities there. In Trincomalee, there were reports of 320 deaths. Further south in popular tourist resort of Galle, there were around 200 deaths, according to police and hospital sources.
Several districts in the south have still not reported, and authorities fear the death toll could rise. The tidal waves also swept away a high security prison in Matara, in southern Sri Lanka, allowing 200 prisoners to escape.
Eyewitnesses in eastern Sri Lankan port city of Tricomalee reported waves as high as 40 feet, hitting inland as far as half a mile.
India’s Interior Minister Shivraj Patil said at least 1,000 Indians were killed as a result of the massive waves. A resident of Madras in Tamil Nadu district — one of the hardest hit areas — said he witnessed several people being swept away by a tidal wave there.
In southern Thailand, some 200 were killed on the island of Phiphi, between Thailand’s coastal area and the resort island of Phuket, where at least 48 were killed, according to the deputy governor. One witness said Phuket’s Laguna Beach resort area is "completely gone."
NEIC geophysicist Don Blakeman said there was also a report that an entire coastal village in Thailand was destroyed by a tsunami.
Closer to the epicenter, some 250 people were killed in Indonesia — most of them in Aceh, in northern Sumatra, according to journalist John Aglionby in Jakarta.
The earthquake is classified as "great" — the strongest possible classification given by the NEIC.
Blakeman said all of the tsunamis were triggered by the initial quake, and not the nine aftershocks.
One major aftershock, measuring 7.3 in magnitude, struck about 200 miles (300 km) northwest of Banda Aceh — on Sumatra’s northernmost tip — over four hours after the initial quake, according to the NEIC. The rest of the aftershocks measured under 6.1 in magnitude.
The NEIC expects the quake to produce hundreds of smaller aftershocks, under 4.6 magnitude, and thousands smaller than that.
"A quake of this size has some pretty serious effects," he said.
He explained the quake was the energy released from "a very large rupture in the earth’s crust" over 600 miles (1,000 km) long.
It was the strongest earthquake to hit since November 1952, when a 9.0 quake struck near Russia’s remote Kuril Islands.
CNN Correspondents Aneesh Raman in Bangkok and Suhasini Haidar in New Delhi contributed to this report