Hundreds Missing in Malaysia



Thousands of people were being evacuated from usually placid northwestern seaside districts hit by flash floods. Authorities expressed fears of more tsunamis.

"I pray that there will not be another round of tidal waves," Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (search) said in a televised statement late Sunday.

Many victims drowned while swimming or riding jet skis near crowded beaches Sunday afternoon, swept away by waves as high as five meters (16 feet) that were triggered by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake near Indonesia's (search) Sumatra island.

Police on Sunday said the casualties included at least two foreigners, but victims on a list released Monday were all Malaysians, many on weekend trips to the resort island of Penang and other coastal areas. There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy.

More than 100 people remained missing in Penang, said the state's civil defense director, Mohamad Johari Mohamad Taufik.

Engineers were inspecting Kuala Lumpur's world-famous 452-meter (1,483-feet) Petronas Twin Towers, the world's second-tallest buildings, to rule out any structural danger caused by tremors. Initial checks showed no damage, but a skybridge linking the towers was closed to the public as a precaution, the building management said.

The devastation shocked a country that — due to its geographical location — has virtually no experience with the earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes or other natural disasters that plague its Southeast Asian neighbors.

"I have never seen a wave this big in my 44 years here," said Shoib Isa, who'd been traveling on a Penang river when surging waters swept him and his boat nearly three kilometers (1.8 miles).

Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak on Monday toured several villages where more than 1,000 homes were destroyed and fishermen lost millions of ringgit (dollars, euros) worth of property and equipment.

A narrow strait separates peninsular Malaysia's western coast from Sumatra.

Tens of thousands of people were temporarily evacuated Sunday from high-rise hotels and apartments throughout peninsular Malaysia due to tremors from the quake.

Several Malaysian doctors left for Indonesia's Aceh province Monday to help with relief efforts, while more would be sent to Sri Lanka soon, said the Malaysian Medical Relief Society.