The earthquake measuring 9.0 magnitude struck the western end of Sumatra Island at 6:58 a.m. local time, flattening buildings and sending a wall of water higher than the tops of coconut palms into the towns and villages in the province of Aceh. The epicenter was located 155 miles southeast of the provincial capital of Banda Aceh and 200 miles west of Medan, Sumatra.
Sumatran Health Ministry officials put the toll in Aceh and the neighboring province of North Sumatra at nearly 4,500 and predicted more victims would be discovered after rescue teams reached remote hamlets cut off by the disaster. In Sumatra, as elsewhere throughout the region, it was impossible to determine the exact toll, which will likely not be known for some time.
This earthquake unleashed a series of tsunamis Sunday that crashed into coastal towns, fishing villages and tourist resorts from Sri Lanka to India, Thailand and Malaysia, killing more than 13,000 people in at least nine countries and leaving thousands missing.
The 9.0 magnitude quake was the strongest in 40 years and the fourth- most-powerful since 1900, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The tsunamis also left thousands injured, thousands missing and hundreds of thousands homeless in Sumatra, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand.