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Seabed 'scarred' by tsunami quake

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (AP) -- The first images of the seabed battered by the quake that triggered Asia's catastrophic tsunami have revealed huge ruptures spanning several kilometers.

Meanwhile Thursday, hundreds of residents in the tsunami-battered Indonesian city of Banda Aceh gathered at the city's historic mosque for a memorial service on the Islamic New Year with messages of hope and renewal.

A British naval ship collecting data off the coast of Indonesia's Sumatra Island produced the images of the seabed, which could be used to help governments develop a tsunami early warning system for the Indian Ocean region.

HMS Scott's commanding officer, Steve Malcolm, said Thursday that the tectonic plates clashed "like the rumpling up of a carpet."

The images show enormous "scars" more than 10 kilometers (six miles) wide resulting from the 9.0-magnitude quake on December 26, the world's biggest in 40 years. They depict the line where the India tectonic plate suddenly collided with, and was pushed underneath, the Burma plate.

The colored seabed maps created with multi-beam sonar show the ridges up to 1,500 meters (4,950 feet) high that were thrust up on the Burma plate by the collision. The ridges pushed water upward, leading to the devastating waves throughout the region.

The difficult task of recovering the dead in Indonesia is unlikely to be finished by June as earlier expected as corpses continue to be found in the rubble, said Yrsa Grune from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Volunteers have been helping a government-led effort to collect and bury victims in Aceh.

Indonesian officials have said they expect the death toll to rise for weeks by an average of 500 a day, but Grune said the search could stretch on for months.

"The plan was to continue until June. Now, it might be that plan will have to be revised," she said. "It's inevitable. Every time you lift a stone you might find something under it because there's still lots of rubble."

Hundreds of residents of Banda Aceh remembered the victims of the disaster during a memorial service on the Islamic New Year.

"This is a trial from God, an opportunity for the Islamic community in Aceh to reflect on their lives," Aceh's vice governor, Azwar Abubakar, said in an address broadcast over loudspeakers at the 17th century Baiturrahman Mosque, where many sought shelter from the disaster.

"Let us draw closer in brotherhood," Abubakar said. "Let us gather together to do good deeds and reject sin."

Aftershocks have rattled the region since the December 26 quake that spawned the tsunami, killing more than 160,000 people in 11 Indian Ocean nations.

Tens of thousands of people are still missing, though officials say it's too early to add them to the toll.

After weeks of keeping the names private, police in Sweden released a list of its 565 missing citizens. It made harrowing reading: A 9-month-old boy, entire families and nearly 100 children younger than 13.

New Zealand's Foreign Ministry slashed the number of nationals it listed as missing by about 200 to just four. Two people were confirmed to have died when the tsunami struck in Thailand, and the four missing are presumed dead, ministry spokeswoman Emma Riley said.


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