Disaster strikes holiday resorts.
British holidaymakers described yesterday how their Christmas paradise getaway turned into a nightmare as the quake hit.
Many told of how they ran for their lives to escape the devastating impact of the following tidal waves.
It is thought that about 10,000 British people were in the area when the quake struck.
Unconfirmed reports suggested at least two Britons were among the dead in south Thailand.
Work is under way to assess the claims and diplomats admitted the figure was expected to rise.
Nick Stewart, whose 16-year-old son Charles is on a cricket tour in Sri Lanka with Harrow School, said the party arrived on Christmas Day and were due to play against Gall School in the test ground.
"They had gone up to get some practice and limber up for the game and the wave apparently washed over the pitch.
"And so they ran for cover, and they are now stationed in the Gall Fort Hotel.
"But their original hotel I don't think is in terribly good shape, I'm sad to say, but I am pleased to say the whole tour party and all the staff are fine."
Holidaymaker Nicola Barton, 33, from Croydon in Surrey, was halfway through her fortnight's holiday with husband Billy, daughter Charlotte and mother Jean when the wall of water struck.
The hairdresser and her family had paid a total of around pounds 8,000 for the Christmas break at the Paradise Island Resort in the Maldives, but she now said it looked like a "war zone".
She said it was now calm, but added: "It is just horrific.
"There are wooden sunbeds floating round the island, chairs from the restaurants and glass smashed everywhere, bulbs from the lighting.
"I feel a bit bemused to be honest. There are people here who are hysterical."
Simon Clark, a 29-year-old photographer from London was holidaying on the Thai island of Koh Ngai near Krabi with his girlfriend, Caroline Barton, 25, also of London.
"Suddenly this huge wave came, rushing down the beach, destroying everything in its wake," he said.
"People that were snorkelling were dragged along the coral and washed up on the beach, and people that were sunbathing got washed into the sea."
Mary Picking, a British tourist in Phuket, said: "We saw this enormous tidal wave approaching the beach and people started to run.
"Suddenly it was complete chaos. People were running and screaming as the waves hit."
* The Foreign and Commonwealth Office inquiry line that relatives and loved ones should use is 020 7008 0000.