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Last Updated: Sunday, 26 December, 2004, 22:21 GMT
MP witnesses Maldives destruction
MP Jim Fitzpatrick
Mr Fitzpatrick says it is not known whether elections will proceed
Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick is among those caught up in the earthquake and sea surges causing destruction across south and east Asia.

The MP for Poplar and Canning Town is in the Maldives to monitor the upcoming elections. Here is his eyewitness account of what has happened.

I was here as a Commonwealth Secretariat expert to monitor the elections which are scheduled for 31 December.

We left the hotel at 8.30am for Male for a full series of meetings with government official about our roles, and being deployed to the country's outlying atolls.

Within half-an-hour of arriving in the capital, our meetings were disrupted.

I had felt the tremors. I was in bed with my wife. She told me 'stop moving', and I said 'But I'm not moving'. The bed was moving enough to realise that something was happening.

The tsunami hit right across the face of the Maldives
MP Jim Fitzpatrick

Three hours later the tsunami hit Male with a wave about 3ft high. With the Maldives only being a metre above sea level, it's created devastation.

Seven or so people have been killed. That wave crossed the Indian Ocean in only three hours.

Our hotel is right next to the airport. The airport was closed from around 9am, and the first flight did not arrive until 6pm. This is of course one of the biggest days of the year for them.

The depth of the water was up to 3ft, and of course business and ordinary life were disrupted. They are still canvassing outer islands and atolls. We're not sure about the overall impact.

The Maldives are pretty much in a straight line north to south.

"The tsunami hit right across the face of the Maldives. Some of the atolls and islands are anything from sea level to a maximum of 4ft above water.

"That number of dead - anywhere from seven to nine - I have heard only relate to Male, the capital, itself. It has 70,000 of the 250,000 [people] in the country.

"When we went back to the island where the airport is, there were many troops from the security forces. There is a Pakistani warship in town and its helicopter has been used to check out some of the outlying islands.

The water in Male had receded 75% from early this morning. Things seemed to be much better. But as the water recedes it has left all the silt and sand and debris. There has been lifting of all the paving stones and tarmac, it has ruined the transport infrastructure.

There is no determination whether the election will proceed or not. We are supposed to go out to the outlying islands on Tuesday, then stay after the elections to draft our report before returning on 5 or 6 January.


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