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More than 5,880 killed in Sri Lanka

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Last updated on: December 27, 2004 15:37 IST

Massive waves triggered by earthquakes crashed into Sri Lankan villages along a wide stretch of its coastline on Sunday, killing over 5,880 people and displacing at least a million others, Sri Lankan officials and a pro-Tamil rebels Web site said.

"It is a huge tragedy and it is unfolding all the time," said Lalith Weerathunga, secretary to the prime minister. "The death toll is going up all the time."

Police chief Chandra Fernando said at least 3,000 people were killed in areas under government control.

"But the good thing is that we are now reaching the people, and telling them we are there to help," Weerathunga said.

The military said the casualty figure had risen to 5,017 civilians and 43 security personnel in places outside areas held by the rebel Tamil Tigers in the north and east.

A pro-rebel Web site reported about 1,500 bodies were brought from various parts of Sri Lanka's northeast to a hospital in Mullaithivu district, 275 km northeast of the capital, Colombo. The area is under the control of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

No independent confirmation of the report was available, but TamilNet -- another pro-rebel Web site -- said some guerrilla territories were badly hit. "Many parts are still inaccessible and it was difficult to provide damage estimates or death tolls there."

The military said 4,013 civilians and 44 military personnel were killed. "Our figures do not reflect what has happened in the Wanni where the Tigers dominate," a military spokesman said.

Both the government and the LTTE have called for urgent international aid to help deal with the island nation's worst-ever natural calamity.

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