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Asia Tsunami Death Toll Climbs to More than 54,000 Dead - 2004-12-29


The death toll from southern Asia's devastating tsunami has climbed to more than 54,000 after Indonesian officials reported a significant increase in fatalities on northern Sumatra island.

In Jakarta, the health ministry today (Tuesday) said 27,000 people are now confirmed dead -- up from 19,000 reported earlier.

A United Nations relief official has warned the death toll is likely to climb because there has been no access to some areas of Sumatra or the Maldive islands across the Indian Ocean.

Sumatra was closest to the epicenter of Sunday's enormous underwater earthquake, which triggered massive waves that slammed the coastlines of a dozen countries along the Indian Ocean from Malaysia to Somalia.

The disaster flattened villages and left millions homeless.

Emergency workers across the region are scrambling to find survivors and prevent an outbreak of waterborne diseases.

Meanwhile, residents are burying their dead in mass graves. The UN children's agency says an estimated one-third of the dead are children.

Sri Lanka has reported 18-thousand dead, while India says at least 8500 have died there. The tsunami also left a trail of destruction through Thailand, and deaths have been reported in Burma, Bangladesh and Malaysia, as well as thousands of kilometers away in Tanzania and Somalia.

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