Mon, Dec 27, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Waves flood two thirds of Maldives' capital: one dead

AFP , MALE, MALDIVES

A British tourist died when this Indian Ocean paradise of the Maldives was hit by unprecedented tidal waves that flooded two thirds of the capitol island and shut the airport, officials said.

The unidentified British tourist died of a heart attack as the tidal waves hit his resort, an official said, adding 50 "water cabanas" built on stilts had been washed away.

The Maldivian government in a statement said there were several casualties, but gave no details.

The situation of tens of thousands of other tourists in the Maldives was not immediately known.

Two thirds of the capital island, Male, was under about 1.2m of water in some areas. About a third of the country's 330,000 population live in the highly congested capital island.

"From about 9am in the morning, the capital, Male, and other parts of the country have been flooded by the tsunami caused by the earthquakes in the eastern Indian ocean," the government statement said.

Sri Lanka's international airport said they were told by the authorities in the Maldives that tidal waves had flooded the Hululle airport island and the runway was closed indefinitely, cutting off air transport to the Maldives.

Parts of the inner breakwater in Male collapsed in front of President Maumoon Abdul Ga-yoom's Office. A Coast Guard speedboat landed right in front of the President's Office.

A man who was opposite the commercial harbor area said he saw the sea suddenly swell and even before he could run towards the center of the island he saw boats coming towards him.

"Suddenly, there was water up to my neck," he said. "I saw a woman and a child nearby, but I don't know what happened to them."

The meteorological department here warned residents not to travel by boat in the next 12 hours, fearing another tidal wave.

"This is the first time Maldives has recorded such freak waves," the National Meteorological Department said in a statement.

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