Fresh Tsunami Warning Has Asians Fleeing Coasts Amid Historic Relief Efforts

(BANDA ACEH, Indonesia, December 30th, 2004) -- Tens of thousands of residents fled coasts in India, Sri Lanka and Thailand after warnings of possible new tsunamis Thursday, and pilots in Indonesia dropped food to cliff-rimmed villages yet to be visited by outsiders four days after the disaster. The Red Cross feared the death toll would surpass 100,000.

India issued a tsunami warning at midday Thursday following aftershocks in the Indian Ocean region, prompting tens of thousands to flee the southeastern coast. Hours later, no waves had arrived and the warning appeared to have been false.

Surveys of the swath of tropical Asia struck by Sunday's 9.0 earthquake and tsunamis were gaining ground, with relief workers still uncovering scenes of flattened villages and survivors living on coconuts.

The death toll topped 84,000, with Indonesia worst affected, followed by Sri Lanka, India and Thailand. With tens of thousands still missing, that number was almost certain to grow, amid fears that disease could bring a new wave of deaths.

The tsunami warning sparked panic among people still rattled by the weekend's devastation.

``We got into a truck and fled,'' said 40-year-old Gandhimathi of Nagappattinam in Tamil Nadu state, who said authorities told her to leave her home. ``We took only a few clothes and left behind all of our belongings, everything we had.''

Sri Lanka's military later told residents there to be vigilant but not to panic, while coastal villagers climbed onto rooftops or sought high ground. ``There is total confusion here,'' said Rohan Bandara in the coastal town of Tangalle.

Tsunami sirens in southern Thailand sent people dashing from beaches, but only small waves followed the alarms.