- The Washington Times - Monday, December 27, 2004


MALE, Maldives — The airport reopened on this Indian Ocean tourist getaway yesterday, a day after tidal waves swept across the collection of low-lying atolls, inundating some. Foreign tourists rushed to departure gates, desperate to leave a holiday gone terribly wrong.

At least 43 persons were confirmed dead and 63 reported missing here from what witnesses said were waves that rolled across many of the islets, washing tourists from their hotel rooms and swimmers out to sea.

“We grabbed what we could and tried to run, but there was nowhere to run,” said Eloisa Cina, 29, from Rome.

Mike Rigg, 33, a construction worker from near Liverpool, England, was surfing when the tsunami hit. He rode the surge, trying desperately not to get caught in the powerful current heading out to sea.

Bucking the outflow of tourists, a band of Russian vacationers arrived yesterday on the chain of 1,192 coral atolls southwest of India and were determined to have their vacation regardless. Tourist industry officials said more than 85 percent of resorts had been damaged.

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PENANG, Malaysia — The beaches — normally abuzz with roaring jet skis and filled with vacationers playing volleyball and soccer — were silent and empty.

About 100 people were still missing here yesterday, and rescue teams scoured the gardens of oceanside resorts and heavily forested coastal areas on the island, home to Malaysia’s bustling, second-largest city and some of the country’s most popular tourist destinations.

Officials said 52 persons were dead and more than 220 injured after earthquake-driven tidal waves swept down the Malacca Straits and crashed into Penang.

In Kuala Lumpur, the capital, engineers inspected the 1,483-foot Petronas Twin Towers, the world’s second-tallest buildings, for structural damage from the quake. Initial checks found no damage, but a sky bridge linking the towers was closed as a precaution.

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CALCUTTA — Retired policeman Sibdas Chakraborty, vacationing with his family, turned around on the deck of the anchored ferry at Port Blair to survey the spectacular coastline.

He was met with a sight he doesn’t think he ever will forget: A tidal wave was smashing the gangplank like the one he and dozens of other travelers had just crossed to board the ferry.

“I saw to my horror the main jetty collapsing and waves suddenly rising higher and higher,” Mr. Chakraborty said yesterday.

The captain came running out of his cabin, yelled at the crew to lift the anchor and set to sea immediately. One boy fell overboard, but was rescued.

The ferry moved away from the dock at Port Blair, capital of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, a territory of India, just in time to avoid being pummeled against the shore.

“Had the ship been at the jetty a few minutes longer, the waves would have crushed us,” Mr. Chakraborty said. “It was like the sea was being churned with a big paddle.”



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