The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Waves tear children out of parents' arms

Jakarta, Dec. 26 (Reuters): A powerful tsunami that crashed into parts of Indonesia today has killed 4,422 people, the health ministry said.

In the statement, the ministry said the worst-affected area was Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh province on the northern tip of Sumatra island, where around 3,000 people have been killed.

A huge earthquake triggered the tsunami that washed people out to sea and tore children from their parents' arms, officials and local media said.

'The weather was fine with no clouds, there was no warning and suddenly the sea water just hit the city. In some parts, the water was up to chest level,' Bustami, a resident in the Aceh city of Lhokseumawe, said over telephone.

'People are panicking now. Some of us are walking by foot and others are on military trucks going to higher ground.'

Health officials told SCTV television that 107 bodies had been brought to Lhokseumawe's Cut Meutia hospital.

Sadli, an official at the hospital, said many of the dead in the city were children under the age of 10. 'Maybe they were being carried by their parents but they fell over in the water and could not hold on to their children. All the dead children drowned,' said Sadli.

The officials said hundreds of houses had been swept away by the 5-metre-high waves across Aceh that lies on the northern tip of Sumatra island.

On Nias island off North Sumatra province, directly south of Aceh, officials said 75 people had died. Nias is popular with foreign surfers, though officials said they had yet to hear reports of any foreigners being killed.

'We have never seen anything like this. The waves just kept coming. We have fled to high areas for safety,' Kibaret Sarumaha, a resident on Nias, told Metro TV.

There have been few reports from the western side of Sumatra island, facing the epicentre of the powerful quake.

Residents reported that the quake toppled homes inland in Aceh, knocked down power lines and damaged bridges.

The airport in the local capital, Banda Aceh, had been closed because of damage, the official Antara news agency reported.

Marine Colonel Buyung Lelana, speaking from Kuala Langka village in northern Aceh, said some people, including his own men, were curious when they saw the waves and made the mistake of failing to flee in time.

'Tens of people saw the rising water and didn't run to high ground. Moreover, they kept watching it. Several of my personnel are even missing,' Lelana said by telephone.

However, more than 200 prisoners escaped from a jail when the tsunami knocked down its walls, a police official said. Ali Taruna Jaya, police chief in the Aceh town of Pidie, said a few prisoners among the 204 who fled had given themselves up.

The quake failed to disrupt production at Aceh's vital Arun liquefied natural gas plant or oil output from OPEC's only Asian member, industry officials said. The Arun LNG complex was unaffected and gas was flowing to the onshore plant, they said. Indonesia is the world's largest LNG exporter.

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