Tourists, fishermen, homes and cars were swept away by walls of water up to 20 feet high that rolled across the Bay of Bengal, unleashed by the 8.9-magnitude earthquake centered off the west coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
In Sri Lanka, 1,000 miles west of the epicenter, more than 3,000 people were killed, the country's top police official said. At least 1,870 died in Indonesia, and more than 2,000 along the southern coasts of India. At least 289 were confirmed dead in Thailand, 42 in Malaysia and 2 in Bangladesh.
But officials expected the death toll to continue to rise, with hundreds reported missing and all communications cut off to Sumatran towns closest to the epicenter. Hundreds of bodies were found on various beaches along India's southern state of Tamil Nadu, and more were expected to be washed in by the sea, officials said.
The rush of waves brought sudden disaster to people carrying out their daily activities on the ocean's edge: Sunbathers on the beaches of the Thai resort of Phuket were washed away; a group of 32 Indians — including 15 children — were killed while taking a ritual Hindu bath to mark the full moon day; fishing boats, with their owners clinging to their sides, were picked up by the waves and tossed away.
"All the planet is vibrating" from the quake, said Enzo Boschi, the head of Italy's National Geophysics Institute. Speaking on SKY TG24 TV, Boschi said the quake even disturbed the Earth's rotation.
(edited 2-9-05 to change the death toll figure)
Edited by Digital Man, 09 February 2005 - 10:18 PM.