Gigantic waves kill pilgrims
More than 500 Christian pilgrims who flocked to a famous southern Indian church for Christmas died in Sunday's deadly sea surge, reports said yesterday. Millions of the faithful visit the Vailankanni church every year, and many make the annual pilgrimage at Christmas. It is believed to be the most important shrine for Christians in the country and is located near Nagapattinam town in southern Tamil Nadu state, about 350km south of capital city Madras. Santhosh, 23, from southern Bangalore city, watched helplessly as eight family members were dragged into the ocean, after gigantic waves crashed down on eastern coastal India on Sunday.
Ten drown in ocean swells
Turbulent swells generated by the Asian tsunami killed at least 10 people in Tanzania, police in the East African country said yesterday. The 10, aged between 12 and 20, were swimming off beaches in the port city of Dar es Salaam on Sunday when they were swept away by strong seas, police contacted from neighboring Kenya said. "On Sunday, between two and five in the afternoon, there were very strong waves and 10 people who were swimming were drowned," said Alfred Tibaigana, regional police commissioner for Dar es Salaam. "The anchors of two oil tankers cut off and they drifted to the high seas, but were brought back after the storm."
Infant found on mattress
A 20-day-old baby has been found alive floating on a mattress in her parent's damaged restaurant in northern Malaysia after the region was slammed by tsunamis, reports said yesterday. S.Tulasi was sleeping in a room at the restaurant when the huge waves struck on Sunday in the holiday resort of Penang. The swirling waters swept her parents out of the restaurant. Luckily however, they later managed to claw their way back to the badly damaged building. "Thank God the mattress was floating in about 1.5m deep water and my baby was crying," the baby's father, A. Suppiah, told reporters. But others were not so lucky. Fisherman Zulkfli Mohd Noor, 42, and his wife lost their five children to the tidal waves.
Tide larger than usual
Unusual tidal surges are continuing to hit the coastline of Western Australia following the massive earthquake and tidal waves that devastated parts of Asia at the weekend, meteorologists said yesterday. Larger than usual waves and tidal surges have been reported since Sunday along the coast from Geraldton, 425km north of the Western Australian state capital of Perth, to Busselton, 232km south of Perth. The consequences of the earthquake were hard to predict, said forecaster Grant Elliot of the Perth Bureau of Meteorology.
Tourist numbers unchanged
Despite the devastation across southern Asia from earthquake-triggered tidal waves, Japanese tourists were still flooding into airports to fly abroad for New Year's celebrations. Japan's Kyodo news agency reported that 39,000 passengers were expected to fly out of Tokyo's Narita airport yesterday for overseas destinations. Sources with Japan Airlines and Thai Airways were quoted as saying that so far there had not been any impact on the number of Japanese passengers booked on flights headed for Bangkok.
■ Hong Kong
Tung denies wanting to quit
Tung Chee-hwa (董建華) has denied wanting to quit early after being subjected to a humiliating dressing-down by the Chinese president, a news report said yesterday. Tung's office said a report in Express Weekly saying he wanted to step down because of ill health before his five-year term is up in 2007 was "completely made up." A statement issued by Chief Executive Tung's office said there was "no factual basis" for the report, which quoted inside sources, according to the South China Morning Post. Express Weekly said Tung sent out secret signals that he wanted to step down early after being publicly criticized by Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) in early December.