Asia wakes to quake devastation

Sri Lankan woman weeps next to the remains of her home

More than 14,000 people are now known to have died after a massive underwater earthquake sent giant waves crashing into coastlines across southern Asia.

Global aid teams have joined the effort to find the thousands still missing and to bring help to the hurt and homeless.

The toll from the disaster is set to spiral in the worst-hit areas of Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia and Thailand.

The 9.0 magnitude quake - the worst in the world for 40 years - struck under the Indian Ocean off western Indonesia.

Sri Lanka: 4,850 dead
Indonesia: 4,440 dead
India: 4,270 dead
Thailand: 430 dead
Malaysia: 44 dead
Maldives: 32 dead
Bangladesh: 2 dead

It generated a wall of water that sped across thousands of kilometres of sea.

Phuket, Thailand

Earlier readings by the US Geological Survey had given a magnitude of 8.9 for the quake but this was raised after further tests.

In the early hours of Monday, fresh tremors were detected near the Indonesian island of Sumatra, sparking warnings from Indian and Sri Lankan weather officials of further, smaller surges, also known as tsunamis.

More than 4,440 people have died in Indonesia, 4,850 in Sri Lanka and 4,270 in India.

Casualty figures are rising over a wide area, including resorts in Sri Lanka and Thailand packed with holidaymakers.

Exact numbers of people killed, injured or missing in the countries hit, are impossible to confirm.

Hundreds are still thought to be missing from coastal regions. In Sri Lanka alone, officials say more than a million people have been forced from their homes.

Military equipment and personnel have been enlisted to manage relief efforts in a number of stricken countries.

Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga declared a national disaster and the military has been deployed to help rescue efforts.

Hundreds of fishermen are missing off India's southern coast, and there are reports of scores of bodies being washed up on beaches.

In Indonesia, communications remain difficult, particularly to the strife-torn region of Aceh where the main quake, early on Sunday morning, was followed by nine aftershocks. Reports speak of bodies being recovered from trees.

The Indian-owned Andaman and Nicobar islands, much nearer the epicentre, were also badly hit.

Casualty reports could not be officially confirmed, but a police chief told reporters 1,000 people had died and another 700 were feared dead.

A national disaster has been announced in the low-lying Maldives islands, more than 2,500km (1,500 miles) from the quake's epicentre, after they were hit by severe flooding.

Waves forced out from the earthquake are even reported to have reached Somalia, on the east coast of Africa.

And as far away as the Seychelles, nine people were reported missing as a two-metre surge struck.

Aid promises

International aid agencies have called for a rapid response to avert further deaths.

The European Union immediately pledged 3m euros (£2.1m) to disaster relief efforts.

Sri Lanka has appealed for international aid to ease the crisis
Messages of condolences have poured in from around the world.

US President George W Bush offered aid to affected nations and expressed sorrow for the "terrible loss of life and suffering".

Harrowing reports of people caught in the devastation and dramatic tales of escape are emerging.

"I heard an eerie sound that I have never heard before. It was a high pitched sound followed by a deafening roar," a 55-year-old Indian fishermen who gave his name as Chellappa told Reuters news agency.

"I told everyone to run for their life."

Sunday's tremor - the fifth strongest since 1900 - had a particularly widespread effect because it seems to have taken place just below the surface of the ocean, analysts say.

Experts say tsunamis generated by earthquakes can travel at up to 500km/h.

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