NAIROBI, Kenya – Hundreds of people died and entire villages and towns disappeared when tidal waves hit Somalia's coastline along its central and northeastern regions, a Somali presidential spokesman said Monday.
The waves, which hit on Sunday, were triggered by the 9.0-magnitude undersea quake centered off the Indonesian island of Sumatra (search), 4,500 kilometers (2,800 miles) away.
The "human loss is in the hundreds in the central and northeastern coastal area. ... Entire villages and coastal town have been swept away by the tidal waves and there is severe damage to property," said Yusuf Ismail, spokesman of Somalia's President Abduallhi Yusuf Ahmed (search).
The spokesman is based in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, where the Somali parliament is based because the Somali capital is considered too dangerous.
He said he could not give an exact figure on the number of dead because "we're focussing on extending our limited relief to the badly affected people."
An Associated Press Reporter in the Somali capital, Mogadishu (search), said that, according to elders speaking on two-way radios and local journalists, the death toll had risen to more than 50 people, up from Sunday's count of nine dead.
Ismail said the worst affected coastlines were along the semiautonomous northeastern region of Puntland and the central regions of Mudug and Upper Shabelle.
"All of the fishermen who went to sea [Sunday] haven't come back," Ismail said. "We make an urgent and important appeal to the international community for immediate relief supplies."
In some parts of Somalia, waves traveled three kilometers (two miles) inland, along riverbeds, said Umar Haji Ali, a fisherman in Kabaal, 800 kilometers (500 miles) northeast of Mogadishu.
In Mogadishu, the ocean rose two meters (six feet) when the waves hit on Sunday, causing damage to docks. There were no reports of deaths in Mogadishu.
"This is the first time we ever saw such waves in our lives," Bishiro Farah Kulmiye, a 53-year old businesswoman said Monday in Marka, about 75 kilometers (46 miles) southwest of Mogadishu.
Ismail said Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Gedi will consult Tuesday with diplomats accredited to Somalia but based in Nairobi to find out what can be done.
Somalia has been split among clan-based militias since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted in 1991. More than 500,000 people have died in the conflict since Barre's fall and some 2 million have been driven from their homes, 1.5 million of them refugees in neighboring countries.
Somalia's civil war has devastated the country's physical infrastructure, and Yusuf's government has no civil service, treasury or even buildings to meet in.