COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Buddhist monks and Hindu priests held prayers in temples across Sri Lanka on Tuesday to give thanks that a massive earthquake in the Indian Ocean overnight did not cause a tsunami.
The Sri Lankan government was among several in the region that issued — then withdrew — tsunami warnings in response to Monday night's undersea earthquake off Indonesia's Sumatra island.
Two people died in Sri Lanka (search) as people fled the coasts during the alert. A teenager was killed in a road accident and an old women collapsed and died while fleeing in the northeast, the TamilNet Web site reported.
Police spokesman, Rienzie Perera (search) said at least 2,500 policemen were deployed throughout the country during the emergency.
Along the east coast — where most of Sri Lanka's more than 31,000 victims died in the Dec. 26 disaster — blaring sirens on Monday night told residents to evacuate immediately to higher ground. Police later used the same loudspeakers to inform people it was safe to return.
About 4 1/2 hours after the 8.7-magnitude earthquake hit near Indonesia, Sri Lanka called off the alert after deciding that a safe period had passed without a tsunami occurring.
In the northeast, where Tamils who are mostly Hindus live, at several temples priests held special offerings of coconuts and fruits to gods. In other areas, Buddhist monks chanted blessings where Sinhalese, who are mostly Buddhists, live.
"There is tremendous sense of relief here," said Batticaloa's Government Agent Velmurrugu Shanmngam (search). "There were tremendous fears, but now it is OK."
Most people who had sought refuge in temples and churches also started returning to their homes from early Tuesday.