Vol. 5 Num 215 Fri. December 31, 2004  

Maldives loses 42 islands

At least 42 islands in the tourist paradise of the Maldives were flattened with 117 people killed and missing after tsunamis raved the low-lying atoll nation, the president said yesterday.

President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom said 75 people were killed while another 42 were confirmed missing in Sunday's devastating tidal waves that caused havoc in his nation of 1,192 coral islands.

"We were not in any way prepared to deal with this disaster," Gayoom told a special session of the national parliament. The toll could be higher as the authorities re-establish contact with far flung islands, he said.

"Maldives may be able to build a new life from scratch with financial assistance, but dealing with the widespread personal tragedy and despair would not be easy," he said.

The tragedy struck the atoll nation of 330,000 Sunni Muslims which is already facing the prospect of extinction from sea level rise caused by global warming. Gayoom had warned that a one-meter rise in sea levels could submerge his country.