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Last Updated: Monday, 27 December, 2004, 17:01 GMT
Sri Lanka counts sea surge dead
Debris of houses in Colombo
A massive search and rescue operation is under way
At least 13,000 people died after sea surges struck long stretches of the Sri Lankan coast on Sunday, officials say.

Many more people are reported missing and about a million are homeless. The government has declared a disaster.

Among the dead are at least 72 foreign tourists, the chairman of Sri Lanka's Tourist Board said.

Although 1,600km from the earthquake epicentre, waves struck Sri Lanka with great force, sweeping far inland. A huge search is underway for survivors.

'Not equipped'

Much of Sri Lanka's coast has been devastated by the waves, with the south and east worst hit.

It is a huge tragedy and it is unfolding all the time
Lalith Weerathunga,
Prime minister's secretary

The army says at least 10,000 bodies have been found so far in areas under government control.

According to the TamilNet website, 1,200 bodies have been recovered in Batticaloa in the east, and another 800 in Trincomalee in the north-east.

About 1,000 more bodies had been found in Mullaitivu and Vadamaradchi East, the website said.

Tamil Tiger rebels who control much of the north and east say the death toll in the area could rise as high as 6,000.

In Trincomalee, the waves swept inland as far as two kilometres. The naval base was reported to be underwater.

Police in the area said hospitals could not cope with the wounded.

Tens of thousands of police and military personnel are combing the coastline by ship, helicopter and plane looking for survivors and pulling bodies from the sea.

President Chandrika Kumaratunga said Sri Lanka was a country used to floods and droughts - but nothing on this scale.

"The scale of the tragedy is massive," she said.

"Sri Lanka has never been hit by tidal waves or earthquakes or anything at all in its known history so this is a grave tragedy which we have not been prepared for."

Her government has issued an appeal for foreign aid.

BBC correspondents say the emergency services are struggling to cope with the aftermath of the waves.

Curfews have been imposed in some areas to prevent looting.

Sri Lanka's president responds to the tragedy


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