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Saturday, January 15, 2005

Foreign aid workers to have military escorts

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia Jan 13, 2005 — Indonesia on Thursday ordered foreign aid workers in tsunami-devastated Aceh province to have military escorts in areas facing violence by insurgents, even as the vice president welcomed a cease-fire offer by the rebels. The total death toll from the disaster rose to more than 157,000.

Relief groups have not reported any security problems in Aceh, where rebels have fought a low-level separatist war against government troops for three decades, and some worried that the new restrictions could harm their reputation for independence.

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Don't forget terror threat amid tsunami relief effort

EVEN as the region picks up the pieces after the tsunami disaster, countries cannot afford to divert their attention from an invisible fault-line in the world today: Transnational terrorism.

"It would be a disaster if countries relaxed their guard to this immediate security threat," said Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Security and Defence Tony Tan, on the sidelines of the inaugural National Security Conference yesterday.

In his opening address to some 50 security experts, gathered to examine the level of Singapore's homeland security, Dr Tan said that over the next one or two weeks, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) would be pulling out of Aceh, Indonesia, as most of the relief and rescue missions there had been completed.

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Indonesia Should Let Tsunami Aid Forces Fulfill Tasks, UN Says

Jan. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Indonesia's government should let overseas military forces helping in the aid effort for survivors of last month's earthquake and tsunami stay as long as necessary, the United Nation's top emergency official said.

Armed forces from the U.S., Australia and other countries are helping ferry supplies to survivors in Aceh province in north Sumatra. Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla yesterday gave them till March 26 to leave Aceh province, where the country's army has been fighting a separatist rebellion for three decades.

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Indonesia woos Singaporean investors to help in infrastructure development

Hello and welcome to Connections. I'm Yvonne Gomez.

AB: The total amount of money we need in ten years’ time is 150 billion dollars, in which 75 billion dollars should be in infrastructure projects in the next five years. And out of the 75 billion dollars, 20% will be financed by the government, and another 20% by the Indonesian private sector. But the bulk of the 60% should be made by foreign investors.

Speaking ahead of the Indonesia Infrastructure Summit 2005 to be held in Jakarta next week, Mr Bakrie said that the development of infrastructure in Indonesia has been slow compared to China and India.

To facilitate this development, the Indonesian government has identified several obstacles to trade.....

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Last SCDF rescue workers in tsunami-hit Khao Lak to return home Fri

SINGAPORE: The last 12 members of the Singapore Civil Defence Force who were helping in search and rescue operations in Khao Lak, Thailand will arrive home on Friday evening.

They are from the Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (DART) who stayed behind after the rest of the 68-strong contingent had left, to help in possible search operations

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MediaCorp artistes render first aid to Sri Lankan tsunami victims

SRI LANKA : Seven MediaCorp artistes, who arrived in Sri Lanka on a humanitarian mission for tsunami victims, immediately put into practice the first-aid lessons they had learnt.

On Thursday, the artistes - Celest Chong, Ix Shen, Xie Shao Guang, Bryan Wong, Vincent Ng, Rayson Tan and Eelyn Kok - rendered basic first aid when they arrived at a temple in Matara.

Two medical tents were set up. Besides giving medical help, the artistes also handed out gifts to cheer up the children there.

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Tsunami-hit Asia appeals for tourists

SINGAPORE (AP) -- Tsunami-wracked Asia has a new appeal to would-be helpers: Take a vacation.

"If you have not planned a visit, please consider booking a trip. If you wish to make a difference, visit," the president of the Bangkok-based Pacific Asia Travel Association, Peter de Jong, said in a recent appeal to travelers.

Images of the killer waves crashing into Asian beach resorts have badly spooked the tourists those areas rely so heavily upon for income. The tsunami that took more than 150,000 lives devastated Indonesia's Sumatra island, but also wrought havoc on tourism-dependent coastal communities in Thailand, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

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Fewer tsunami orphans than feared

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (Reuters) - The head of the U.N. Children's Fund says there were probably fewer orphans than originally thought in Asia's tsunami-hit areas, and efforts should be directed towards uniting children with family members.

Carol Bellamy, executive director of UNICEF, spoke on Friday just hours after the U.N. agency spoke of reports that Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers were recruiting children displaced by the tsunami and said it had told the rebels to leave under-age survivors alone.

Indonesia found almost 4,000 more bodies, taking the global death toll from the disaster to more than 162,000 with searches completed in areas most damaged by the December 26 tsunami.

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Time for tsunami relief efforts in Aceh to move to next phase: Minister Teo

SINGAPORE: Singapore's Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean has said it's time for relief efforts in Aceh to move from emergency relief phase to the reconstruction phase.

Speaking at an event to send off Red Cross volunteers on board the RSS Endurance to tsunami-hit Meulaboh, he noted that the Singapore Armed Forces has been in the area since the very beginning and being involved in a variety of things.

Minister Teo noted that the most important thing was that Singapore was able to get in there when nobody else was able to get in immediately after the disaster.

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Friday, January 14, 2005

Indonesia Sets Deadline for Forces on Tsunami Duty (Update3)

Jan. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla has given international troops until March 26 to leave Aceh province, where they are helping provide relief after last month's earthquake and tsunami, a military spokesman said.

Australia and the U.S. are among the nations helping to ferry supplies to survivors in the province in northern Sumatra. Kalla said overseas forces should hand over the operation to Indonesia three months after the Dec. 26 disaster, the spokesman, Ahmad Yani Basuki, said in a telephone interview today in Jakarta.

Aceh province was nearest the epicenter of the magnitude-9 earthquake that caused the tsunami to strike coastlines in South Asia and East Africa. More than 170,000 people were killed or are missing. Indonesia has the highest toll, with 106,523 deaths recorded by the Social Ministry.

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Indonesia cracks down on tsunami relief effort

Banda Aceh — Relief organizations said a new demand made by Indonesia on Thursday that foreign aid workers have army escorts in tsunami-stricken Aceh province will hamper aid delivery and blur the lines between the military and humanitarian efforts.

Rich creditor nations, meanwhile, offered a moratorium on payments on billions of dollars owed by tsunami-hit nations. Only Sri Lanka, Indonesia and the Seychelles said they planned to accept the Paris Club's proposal, while Thailand expressed concern that doing so would hurt its credit rating.

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Malaria threat emerges as rains deluge tsunami stricken region in Indonesia

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (AP) -- Health officials plan to go door to door and tent to tent with mosquito-killing spray guns beginning Friday to head off a looming threat that one expert says could kill 100,000 more people around the tsunami disaster zone: malaria.

The devastation and heavy rains are creating conditions for the largest area of mosquito breeding sites Indonesia has ever seen, said the head of the aid group anchoring the anti-malaria campaign on Sumatra island. The pools of salt water created by the Dec. 26 tsunami have been diluted by seasonal rains into a brackish water that mosquitos love.

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Clark shocked by tsunami devastation in Sri Lanka

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said she was shocked at the devastation the tsunami had caused in Sri Lanka.

Clark in a letter to President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga states:

"It is with great sadness that I have learned of the loss of life that your people along Sri Lanka's southern coasts have suffered as a result of the earthquake and tsunami that originated off Sumatra.

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U.S. corporate tsunami aid tops $500M

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS.MW) -- U.S. companies have given more than half a billion dollars to help Asia recover from the tsunami that struck in late December, according to a survey released Thursday.

The Committee to Encourage Corporate Philanthropy, which represents more than 100 executives of large U.S. firms, including Citigroup and Merck, said a poll of its members showed more than $500 million in cash, in-kind and employee matching gifts have been donated so far.

That figure could rise further in the coming months because companies may increase donations as they get more information on what specific help is needed and where it should be directed, the CECP added in a statement.

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Monday, January 10, 2005

India: tsunami warnings could have been made

Thousands died or were left homeless when the December 26 tsunami struck India’s eastern coast and engulfed the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal. The response of the Indian political establishment has revealed its indifference and contempt toward the poverty-stricken villagers and fishermen who were the main victims.

The United Progressive Alliance government (UPA) in New Delhi, along with the state governments in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Pondicherry and Kerala, have insisted that they were unaware of the tsunami and could do nothing to save lives. All of them have defended the lack of a tsunami warning system by insisting that, unlike the Pacific, the Indian Ocean has not experienced frequent tsunamis.

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TSUNAMI AFTERMATH: U.S. helicopter crashes at an under-pressure airport

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia -- A U.S. Seahawk helicopter on a relief operation crashed in a rice paddy near Banda Aceh's airport, injuring all 10 aboard and causing the military to briefly suspend flights today. Strong aftershocks and security concerns provided more challenges for aid workers two weeks after the disaster hit.

Capt. Kendall L. Card, the commander of the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier, which is stationed off the coast of Sumatra island, said over the ship's loudspeakers that six of the servicemen aboard the aircraft had been hurt seriously and four had minor injuries. The worst injury was a dislocated pelvis, he said.

Lt. Cmdr. John M. Daniels blamed the crash on a "possible mechanical failure" and said it was being investigated. Fifteen Seahawk helicopters from the Lincoln group have been flying up to nine hours a day on aid missions. Normally they fly a maximum of three to four hours a day.

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Counselling available for foreign workers affected by tsunamis

The Ministry of Manpower is stepping up relief efforts for foreign workers affected by the tsunami disaster.

It is partnering with the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME) to provide counselling to affected foreign workers.

Even as aid and compassion pours in for victims of the tsunami disaster, there has also been concern on how foreign workers in Singapore are coping with news of their loved ones back home.

Several remittance centres have waived charges for workers to send money back to their families.

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U.S. helicopter crashes in Indonesia

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia -- A U.S. helicopter with 10 people on board crashed in a rice paddy as it was trying to land at the Banda Aceh airport Monday while on a tsunami-relief operation, injuring at least two U.S. servicemen, a U.S. military spokesman said.

The injured men, along with eight other Navy personnel, were being flown back to their ship in the Lincoln battle group, said Capt. Joe Plenzler, a U.S. military spokesman in Medan, 250 miles southeast of Banda Aceh.

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Sri Lanka Must Control Aid Flow to Halt Currency Rise, IMF Says

Jan. 10 (Bloomberg) -- Sri Lanka must slow the flow of overseas aid into the country to prevent its currency from further rising against the dollar and the yen, said Raghuram Rajan, chief economist at the International Monetary Fund.

Sri Lanka's rupee was the world's best performing currency last week against the dollar and yen, as a freeze on overseas debt repayments by Japan and the U.K. after a Dec. 26 tsunami that killed more than 30,000 people on the island, meant the government won't have to buy foreign currencies.

Aid from the U.S., Japan, Germany as well as private donations from international humanitarian groups and businesses running into hundreds of millions of dollars may further increase demand for the Sri Lankan rupee, strengthening the currency and hurting exports that make up a third of the country's $18 billion economy. Sri Lanka needs about $1.5 billion for reconstruction, Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar said Jan. 6.

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International SOS plays major role in assisting tsunami victims and survivors

Since the tsunamis struck Asia on December 26, International SOS, the world's largest medical and security assistance company, has been actively providing support to clients in the region. Crisis management teams at SOS regional Alarm Centres in Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and India have handled more than 1,000 client requests for assistance to date.

The SOS Tsunami Support Team of more than 70 SOS staff, including 30 medical professionals, continues to work around the clock to render medical advice and assistance to affected clients, ranging from locating missing persons to handling evacuations and hospitalizations. The focus now, however, has shifted from rescue to relief and disease management, with health conditions on the ground worsening.

According to Dr Scott Wilkinson, Regional Medical Director for International SOS in Australasia, "There are serious concerns about emerging health problems, such as malaria and dysentery, that result from lack of clean water and sewage seeping into drinking water sources. Also, destruction of infrastructure and particularly roads makes relief efforts more challenging, with many remote areas literally cut off by all means except helicopter."

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Aid yet to reach some tsunami victims

Aid groups have conceded some survivors may not have received help despite an unprecedented emergency operation two weeks after tsunamis killed more than 156,000.

They fear more isolated villages along the west coast of Indonesia's Aceh province where most of the country's 104,055 deaths occurred could still be fending for themselves.

In Aceh, where aftershocks from the undersea earthquake on 26 December that spawned the huge waves continued to be felt on Sunday, many communities remain inaccessible by land and are dependent on food aid dropped by helicopter.

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Paris Club set for debt moratorium over tsunami

PARIS (Reuters) - The Paris Club of government creditors is ready to agree to a debt moratorium for nations hit by the Asian tsunami at a meeting in Paris on Wednesday, French Finance Minister Herve Gaymard says.
"We (France) will propose a moratorium on the debt. The Paris Club countries accept this. We have consulted them," Gaymard told Europe 1 radio in an interview on Sunday.

Finance ministers of the Group of Seven industrialised countries said on Friday they had agreed to freeze the debt repayments of nations hit by the tsunami and would work with the Paris Club and other creditors on arranging how.

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Annan hopes tsunami relief will boost peace in Lanka

The United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan hopes that the inter-ethnic cooperation which he saw in tsunami-hit Sri Lanka, will accelerate the peace process in the war-torn island.

Addressing the media in Colombo on Sunday, Annan said that the cooperation between the Tamils, Sinhalas and Muslims, which he saw in Hambantota and Trincomalee, was "extraordinary."

In Hambantota, in the predominantly Sinhala South, he saw a mosque housing people of all religions. In the Tamil area of Trincomalee, he found Tamil and Muslim children playing together in a relief camp housed in a school.

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Tsunami no match for Sars

Hong Kong - Two of nature's most powerful forces - a monster earthquake and a massive tsunami - teamed up in southern Asia to cause death, human misery and destruction on a scale rarely seen before.

But when the total economic damage is tallied up, many analysts and economists say that harm done to the region's economies won't come close to the financial havoc caused by the mysterious little virus that triggered the global Sars outbreak in 2003.

"Barring severe aftershocks, the hits to the region's tourism industry and GDP growth are unlikely to be anywhere close to the damage caused by the Sars outbreak in the first quarter of 2003," said Rajeev Malik of JP Morgan Chase Bank in Singapore.

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Michael Richardson: US and Australia hope aid will find favour with Muslims

SINGAPORE - Like huge numbers of their citizens, the leaders of the United States and Australia who attended the special summit in Jakarta last week on the tsunami disaster were moved by the scale of the tragedy.

Visiting Indonesia's Aceh province shortly before the summit, US Secretary of State Colin Powell, a former armed forces chief and veteran of several wars, said he had never seen anything like the horror caused by the earthquake and seismic waves that devastated the coastline of northern Sumatra, killing more than 100,000 people.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said no natural disaster in his lifetime had touched Australians as much as the tsunami tragedy.

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Tsunami relief runs into snags

UTAPAO, Thailand — International relief workers, the U.S. military included, face a delicate task in coming weeks of ensuring their aid efforts do not spawn new violence in portions of the tsunami area already rife with political and religious unrest for years before the disaster.

While concerns are highest in Sri Lanka and in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where unrelated separatist movements have raged in recent decades, military officials say any place large refugee camps are set up can become problematic.

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Tsunami disaster shows Singapore is a small nation with a big heart: PM Lee

SINGAPORE : Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the tsunami disaster had drawn Singaporeans closer and shown that Singapore is a small nation with a big heart.

It was a sentiment echoed by governments of the worst-hit nations of the disaster at a memorial service in Singapore on Sunday for victims of the disaster.

Diplomats from Indonesia, Thailand, India, Sri Lanka and Sweden thanked the people and government of Singapore for the humanitarian efforts put in to help the tsunami victims.

Those who lost loved ones to the tsunami found some comfort at the memorial service.

Leaders of nine different religions led prayers in a simple and dignified occasion as all had their heads bowed in respect.

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Thousands in Singapore continue to donate to tsunami victims

SINGAPORE : Thousands of Singaporeans across the island continue to donate generously to tsunami victims.

The response from them has been so overwhelming that the satellite collection centres for humanitarian organisation Mercy Relief may be closed on Sunday.

But it still welcomes donations at its main centre at Lowland Road.

Although Mercy Relief's satellite collection centres may soon be closing, hundreds of Singaporeans are driving truckloads of donations to the main collection centre at Lowland Road which stays open in the next few months.

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Thai authorities cast doubts on nationalities of tsunami victims

PHUKET : Thai officials have cast doubts on the nationalities of nearly 2,000 tsunami victims.

This comes after further examinations called into question initial visual checks.

The total death toll is more than 5,300 - with Khao Lak being the worst hit.

The situation in Khao Lak is such that the provincial government has already started moving in a lot of heavy machinery and it is clearing debris from the Khao Lak area.

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Thousands turn up at memorial service for tsunami victims

People from all walks of life, and different nationalities, joined Singaporeans to remember the tsunami victims at a memorial service on Sunday.

Thousands turned up for the service, held at Singapore Expo.

Zainul Abidin Rasheed, Mayor, North East Community Development Council, said, "It's a day that is filled with sadness for Singapore and all of Asia. It's a day where we try to remember all those who perished in the disaster that many of us ha(d) never anticipated."

Parliamentary Secretary for Community Development, Youth and Sports, Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman said, "This is a reflection of national support. I'm very happy to see the tremendous support being shown. It shows Singapore is with those who have suffered from the tsunami, especially our neighbours."

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