120 Dead on African Coast

Published December 28, 2004

| Associated Press

Ten Tanzanians were killed by tidal waves that hit Africa's east coast after the massive earthquake in southern Asia, a senior police official said Tuesday. A Somali official said the death toll in his country was up to 110.

The tidal waves hit East Africa's shores Sunday, triggered by a magnitude-9 undersea quake centered off the Indonesian island of Sumatra, about 4,500 kilometers (2,800 miles) across the Indian Ocean.

On Tuesday, Ali Abdi Awaare, environment minister of the semiautonomous northeastern region of Puntland (search), said the official death toll in Somalia was 110, up from more than 50 a day earlier.

A presidential spokesman, Yusuf Ismail, had said Monday that hundreds were killed and entire villages swept away.

The figures given by Ismail and Awaare could not be independently confirmed.

Puntland has had a fledgling government for more than six years but central and southern Somalia has not had an effective government for 13 years because of war between rival clan-based militias.

Awaare said a lot more people are still missing and most displaced by the flooding are on hilltops, without food or shelter.

On Tuesday, a team from the U.N. children's agency left Bossaso, about 1,120 kilometers (696 miles) northeast of Somalia's capital, Mogadishu (search), said Siddharth Chatterjee, a senior program officer with UNICEF (search) in Nairobi.

"Right now information is very sketchy ... We are ready to provide assistance to 2,500-3,000 people within 24 hours" when the team reports back later Tuesday, Chatterjee said.

In Tanzania, most of the 10 killed were swimming near Dar es Salaam's beach, and their bodies were recovered Monday, said Alfred Tibaigana, regional police commander of Tanzania's the commercial capital. He said others in a capsized boat were feared dead as well.

On the island of the Seychelles, two fishermen where missing and four Seychellois were hospitalized after being lightly injured following flooding caused by the tidal waves, said Alain Payette, a top official in President James Michel's office.

In Kenya, one person died in Malindi, about 260 miles southeast of the capital, Nairobi, and 50 fishing boats were destroyed, said police spokesman Jaspher Ombati on Tuesday.

Mohamed Mhita, director-general of the Tanzania Meteorological Authority, said East Africa experienced weak ocean surges compared to Asia, where tens of thousands were killed when the waves stormed ashore.

"The Tanzanian coast did not receive the full force of the waves as they had already dissipated," Mhita said.

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