Relief drive kicks in for tsunami victims - East Valley Tribune: News

Relief drive kicks in for tsunami victims

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Posted: Thursday, December 30, 2004 11:02 pm | Updated: 4:36 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia - Two U.S. aircraft carrier battle groups loaded with supplies headed for tsunami-ravaged coasts Friday and a military cargo jet brought aid to Indonesia, as a huge world relief drive to shelter, treat and feed millions of survivors kicked in. The death toll passed 121,000 and was still climbing.

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But with help streaming in, overstreched authorities were dealing with logistical nightmare of getting it to the needy. Tons of supplies were backlogged in Indonesia, with thousands of boxes filled with drinking water, crackers, blankets and other basic necessities piled high in an airplane hangar nearly 300 miles from Banda Aceh, the wrecked main city in the disaster zone.

Indonesia, the hardest hit nation, said its toll - now at 80,000 - could reach 100,000, and officials began to acknowledge that the number of dead may never be known with precision, because the towering waves that smashed into Sumatra island swept entire villages with their inhabitants out to sea.

The Bush administration, which so far has promised $35 million in aid, broadened its response to the disaster with plans for Secretary of State Colin Powell to visit the region and assess what more the United States needs to do.

"All Americans are shocked and saddened by the tragic loss of life," President Bush said in a statement Thursday. "To coordinate this massive relief effort, first-hand assessments are needed by individuals on the ground."

On India's Andoman and Nicobar islands, survivors were desperate for food and water, with still little aid reaching them six days after the disaster. Foreigners are banned from the archipelago because of its large air force post, and India has not given permission for international aid groups to deliver help.

"There is nothing to eat there. There is no water. In a couple of days, people will start dying of hunger," said Anup Ghatak, a utilities contractor from Campbell Bay island, as he was being evacuated to Port Blair, capital of the archipelago.

Rescue workers in the archipelago believe thousands of uncounted bodies remain in the debris of crumbled homes, downed trees and mounds of dead animals on several islands. India has officially reported 7,763 dead in the tsunami disaster - most from the southern provinces of the mainland. The number does not include a complete count from the archipelago, where officials estimate as many as 10,000 people could be buried under mud and debris.

Forensic teams in Thailand packed bodies in dry ice as the government announced its death toll had doubled to more than 4,500 people, almost half of them foreigners who had been vacationing on the country's renowed white-sand beaches.

Sunday's 9.0 magnitude quake struck just off the coast of Sumatra, near the Indian archipelago, sending walls of water racing across the Indian Ocean and wiping out coasts in 11 nations.

After Indonesia, Sri Lanka was the next hardest hit, with about 28,500 deaths. A total of more than 300 were killed in Malaysia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, the Maldives, Somalia, Tanzania and Kenya.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Thursday that nations had donated $500 million toward the relief effort, but more help was needed. Militaries from around the world geared up to help.

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