28 December 2004

East Africa: Dozens Die As Tail End of Tsunami Slams Coastal Areas

Nairobi — Dozens of people were killed when huge waves triggered by an earthquake in the Indian Ocean slammed into coastal areas of Somalia, Kenya and Tanzania on Sunday, officials said.

In Somalia, the deputy speaker of the transitional federal parliament, Mohammed Omar Dala, said nearly 50 people drowned when their boats were struck by the waves.

"The information we have so far is that 48 people died," Dala told IRIN on Tuesday in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, where the newly created Somali transitional government is based. Most of the victims were fishermen from Gara'g and Hafun villages in the northeastern Puntland region, he said.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported on Monday that many coastal villages and towns were destroyed or submerged by the waves in central and northeastern coastal regions of Somalia.

Local media in Somalia said on Tuesday that the death toll could be as high as 100. They said up to 60 people could not be accounted for in the northern areas of Hafun, Bender Beyla, Elayo, Caluula and Eyl, and in Marka and Baraawe towns of Lower Shabelle region in the south.

The waves also slammed into Tanzania, where most of the casualties were children who were swimming near the beach, according to the police in the commercial capital, Dar es Salaam. "At least 10 people drowned in incidents associated with strong waves off the Tanzanian coast that originated from Asia," Police Commander Alfred Tibaigana told IRIN.

Several people were injured, he said, adding that the huge waves also disrupted ferry transport services to islands off Dar es Salaam.

In Kenya, authorities sealed off the beaches on Monday to prevent people from exposing themselves to the danger posed by the rushing waters.

The Provincial Police Officer in charge of the coast, Alex Rono, told IRIN on Tuesday one person had been reported killed in Watamu resort, north of Mombasa. The beaches, he added, had been reopened.

The tsunami, caused by an earthquake off Indonesia, hit coastal areas in the archipelago as well as in Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Indonesia, The Maldives and Malaysia, leaving a trail of death and destruction. An estimated 30,000 people were reported killed by mid-Tuesday, but the death toll was expected to rise.

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