Torrents of water swept through the town, taking buses and cars with it and submerging buildings and bridges. Desperate people, caught by the rising waters, tried to hang to flooded buildings but some were swept away by the water. Other were trapped on top of buses about to sink. Nearly all homes within about a kilometer (half a mile) of the coast were destroyed or damaged by the tidal waves. By Wednesday, hopes were dimming of finding more survivors as the country''s official death toll rose to almost 22,500. The city, which is about 200 kilometers (124 miles) south of Colombo, is now suffering food shortages as shaken refugees crowd into churches, mosques and Buddhist temples. The government in Colombo has called Sunday''s events a national disaster and has appealed for emergency relief. The tidal waves were triggered by a huge earthquake off northeast Indonesia, some 15-hundred kilometers (one-thousand miles) from Sri Lanka.