The strongest earthquake in Southeast Asia

The strongest &to=http:// ' target=_blank>earthquake in 40 years struck the Indonesian island of Sumatra, unleashing tidal waves that killed at least 10,000 people in Indonesia, &to=http:// ' target=_blank>India, Sri Lanka and other parts of Southeast Asia. The magnitude 8.9 quake, the fifth strongest in a century, triggered aftershocks today across 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles) of water. Waves as high as 10 meters struck tourist resorts in Thailand, Malaysia, the Andaman Islands and the Maldives.

At least 4,185 people were killed in Indonesia, Agence France-Presse said, citing officials. Sri Lanka reported more than 3,200 deaths, while about 2,400 died in India. At least 310 died and 5,000 were injured in Phuket and elsewhere in southern Thailand, AFP said.

"The power of this earthquake, and its huge geographical reach, are just staggering," Carol Bellamy, executive director for the UN Children's Fund, said in a statement. "Hundreds of thousands of children in coastal communities in six countries may be in serious jeopardy", reports Bloomberg.

Echoing pleas by Asian leaders, Pope John Paul II urged the international community to rush aid to the affected populations.

Closest to the affected areas, Pakistan President &to=http:// ' target=_blank>Pervez Musharraf called for "swift and concerted" international efforts, and the foreign ministry said it would send a consignment of relief goods comprising tents, medicines and water to Sri Lanka, one of the worst-hit countries.

The European Commission said it was providing immediate emergency aid of 3m euros ($4m) for victims to meet "initial vital needs", and that more substantial aid would be provided later, wrote the Economic Times.

According to the Turkish Press, the nation's top beach attractions were among the worst-hit as waves swept scores of people out to sea, drowned snorkellers, sank boats and shattered buildings along the coast.

The popular resort of Phuket and the idyllic island of Phi Phi were devastated by the huge waters.

Monster waves crashed down onto beaches and crushed holiday bungalows after the first of a series of waves hit just before 10:00am (0300 GMT), according to officials and rescuers.

Phuket's major beach town, Patong, was flooded and all shops, kiosks and hotels along the beach were damaged. Some were washed away by the waters that carried away debris and tourist "tuk-tuk" taxis.

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