Taufik Batisah - Asia Tsunami Blog

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Monday, January 03, 2005

Bogus emails anger authorities

In Hong Kong emails falsely asking for donations for victims of last week's killer tsunami have been discovered doing the rounds, while in England a man has been charged for sending hoax emails telling families of people missing that their loved ones were dead.

Police and charity workers said today the fraudulent messages in Hong Kong claims to be from Oxfam and urges donors to deposit money into a bank account in Cyprus.

It was not known whether anybody had been fooled by them, a police spokeswoman said.

Oxfam is among a number of worldwide relief agencies mobilisingtsunami aid.

Oxfam Hong Kong spokeswoman Christy Ko said the emails were a sick attempt to extort money from people at a time of tragedy.

However, she did not believe they would harm the agency's campaign to raise funds for relief efforts.

"It was a very badly put together email, I don't think many people would have been fooled," she said.

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Chaos hinders tsunami aid



BANGKOK (Reuters) - The $2 billion (1.04 billion pound) Asian tsunami relief operation is encountering chaos and "a wall of devastation" in Indonesia as aid workers struggle to help thousands of survivors huddled in makeshift camps.

As aid logjams at Asian airports, bursting with hundreds of tonnes of emergency supplies, began to ease on Monday it was the destruction left by nature that was proving the biggest obstacle to the biggest relief operation since World War Two.

"It's absolute chaos," said Titon Mitra of CARE International, which is running 14 survivor camps in Indonesia's Aceh province where about two thirds of the 144,000 people killed by the December 26 Indian Ocean tsunami died.

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Tsunami Aid Faces Destruction and Possibly Pirates



BANGKOK, Thailand (Reuters) - The massive Asian tsunami relief operation faces absolute chaos and "a wall of devastation" in Indonesia as well as the threat of pirates plundering aid, relief groups struggling to help thousands in camps said on Monday.

As aid logjams began to ease at Asian airports, bursting with hundreds of tons of emergency supplies, it was the destruction left by nature that was proving the biggest obstacle to the $2 billion relief operation, the biggest since World War II.

"It's absolute chaos," said Titon Mitra of CARE International, which is running 14 survivor camps in Indonesia's Aceh province. About two thirds of the 144,000 people killed by the Dec. 26 Indian Ocean tsunami died there.

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Humanitarian supplies airlifted from Singapore onto US navy ships



SINGAPORE : Humanitarian relief donations have been airlifted from Singapore onto US naval ships heading to tsunami-hit areas in Indonesia and Sri Lanka.

With a large volume of relief supplies creating a bottleneck, it is now a logistical challenge to get them delivered to the survivors.

US Marine helicopters are more accustomed to transporting troops; instead they are carrying much needed relief supplies, like bottled water picked up from Guam.

As soon as the relief aid arrived at Singapore's Paya Lebar Air Base, it was airlifted by choppers and stored onboard the USS Bonhomme Richard.

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Mother, daughter came from Singapore to be killed by tsunami

For 14-year-old Jesima Begum and her mother Jerina Begum of Singapore, their sojourn in India ended in tragedy as they were killed by the tsunami waves, which struck the region on December 26.

Jesima and Jerina came to spend the year-end holidays in Senthamangalam village near Porayar, the native place of Jerina's husband Mohammad Rafeek who had settled down in Singapore with his family.

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Singaporeans find different ways to help tsunami relief effort

Three officials from the International Committee of the Red Cross have arrived in Singapore and are setting up a logistics base for the relief effort in Aceh. Meanwhile, over S$10.5 million in tsunami aid has been raised by the Singapore Red Cross, as of 6 pm on Sunday.

Individuals and companies round the island have given generously and one Singaporean even donated something very special -- a song that he wrote. Local composer Simon Ng hopes the song will encourage volunteers, relief workers and families affected by the tsunamis. Called "Hope", it is a song of comfort, of peace and most of all, of hope. The composer has donated the copyright to the Red Cross. "When I watch the news on TV and I saw people piling up and people were crying and they don't know what to do and they're so lost, I think music can really heal somebody. It's one of the best medicines around," Mr Ng said.

Companies like MediaCorp are also chipping in to help the victims. MediaCorp's three Chinese radio stations have started an islandwide donation drive, which has raised some S$60,000 so far. Radio DJs have also been busy visiting shopping malls around Singapore to drum up support.

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Dead bodies pose least health threat in disaster-hit areas

In the aftermath of the quake and tsunami disaster, there have been concerns that diseases will set in, as affected countries cope with dead bodies in water-logged areas, poor sanitation and contaminated water. But experts say dead bodies -- although in thousands in some areas -- probably pose the lowest health threat.

With drinking water in many areas contaminated by sea water and poor sanitation, there are fears that water-borne diseases like cholera, dysentery and malaria will bring a new set of problems. Said Dr Ooi Peng Lim of the Health Ministry's Disease Control Branch, "The diseases can set in once the infectious agents are introduced into a conducive environment. Depending on the disease, the incubation period could be anywhere between a few hours, as in the case of cholera, to a few weeks, in the the case of Hepatitis A." The incubation period for malaria and vector-borne diseases might take even longer, as the mosquito vector will have to build up before the transmission of diseases. But amid these fears, experts have played down at least one threat -- that of rotting bodies, some of which are being burnt in mass burials.

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Giving a helping hand

SINGAPORE : Foreign workers and Singaporeans joined hands on Sunday for a minute of silence to remember the tsunami victims. Through the event, organisers also want to extend a hand of friendship to foreign workers in Singapore affected by the disaster.

About 50 people gathered at the memorial organised by the Transient Workers Count Too - amongst them, religious leaders, embassy staff and maids. The rain might have reduced their numbers but it didn't lessen their pain. Amy Fatah, Muslim Converts' Association, said, "I feel very sorry to all the victims wherever they come from and we pray for them and for their loved ones...pray hard to God, help others, help humanity, extend your understanding..." Indonesian maid Siti Muyasaroh said, "Singaporeans have been very good...they're concerned for the people in Aceh and other countries as well and I'm very deeply moved." There are about 150,000 maids and hundreds of thousands of foreign workers in Singapore And with tens of thousands of victims still unaccounted for, many are still worried about their loved ones back home. Braema Mathi, Chairperson, Transient Workers Count Too, said, "We can send money, very (much) needed, we can send goods, needed, but at the same time we must also touch them and say we understand this is a very tough period for you.

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Trying to Move Ahead

As dawn brings the first rays of light into the deserted fishing hamlet of Nambiar Nagar, a few locals venture in. An hour later, more people arrive and by midmorning, the place is teeming.

They are the residents of the fishing village on the edge of the Bay of Bengal who fled as last week's tsunami hit. Many survivors are now returning from government relief camps inland to pick up the pieces and resume their lives.

"We have to move on," S. Meenakshi, 45, said, sitting inside her tsunami-damaged home.

India's official death toll from the Dec. 26 tsunami, which battered a dozen nations from Asia to Africa, is more than 9,000, most in southern Tamil Nadu state. The United Nations expects the total number of people killed in the disaster to reach 150,000. Five million people were left homeless by the waves.

Six days after the carnage, survivors like Meenakshi have returned to their rustic huts to assess the damage. With little outside help, they are putting back the wooden planks, tightening loosened poles, cleaning out knee-deep sludge and resurrecting their homes.

"We can't live the life of refugees forever," Meenakshi said.

The steps back are tentative, as survivors grapple with an urge to go home amid fear that another wave may hit.

Many spend the day in their villages, but return to the relief camps at night.

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A Tsunami Blessing

In light of this week's tsunami devastation, the following blessing is offered as a prayer for those of various faiths. May it be useful as we move
into a new year together.

A Tsunami Blessing

Blessed are those who mourn for the tsunami's victims; may they
find comfort in their pain and hope in their helplessness.

Blessed are those who found a way to survive; may they now find
sufficient strength and healing as they reassemble the scattered
pieces of shattered lives.

Blessed are those who tirelessly strive to give relief; may they
be amply encouraged in their valiant efforts.

Blessed are those who generously give money and supplies...may
they know the deep satisfaction of having made a difference.

Blessed are those in every nation who unite now in compassionate
service and love; may they show us what it means to be family.

Singapore offers to be UN disaster hub

Singapore has offered to be the United Nations' regional tsunami disaster coordination center, to ease the congestion of in coming relief supplies.

"We see this as an imperative because of the reports we've been receiving. Aid is building up at ports and airports; the system is becoming overloaded. We are concerned if we don't address this situation quickly, if we don't come in pre-emptively to offer our facilities and bases for the UN relief agencies to do their work, we may have to bear with another crisis of sorts," said Andrew Tan of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, ChannelNews Asia reported Monday.

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China Wen to attend Thurs. tsunami meeting

More heads of states will attend the Jakarta meeting Thursday to discuss coordination of relief efforts for the Indian Ocean tsunami tragedy.

China was the latest to announce attendance at Thursday's summit - hosted by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono - saying that Premier Wen Jiabao would be in Jakarta.

The meeting was proposed by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong after a magnitude-9.0 earthquake triggered giant waves that swamped countries on December 26, over 125,000 of people.

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Singapore says 9 dead, 12 missing, 63 uncontactable after tsunami disaster



The Singapore authorities have issued an update on the aftermath of last Sunday's earthquake and tsunami.

As at 7am on Monday, the death toll remains at nine with two bodies found in Aceh over the weekend.

The number of Singaporeans listed as missing is now 12 - all of whom are missing in Thailand.

63 Singaporeans are still uncontactable in the tsunami-affected areas, a drop from 81, who were listed as on Sunday uncontactable.

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First Tsunami Survivor Found in Three Days



BANDA ACEH, Indonesia Jan 2, 2005 — A Sumatran fisherman was discovered barely alive under his beached boat Sunday the first survivor found in three days, but with tens of thousands still missing in crushed seaside settlements and in the flotsam washing the shores of the Indian Ocean rescuers turned full attention to getting food and water to the living. Aid agencies said the death toll was expected to hit 150,000.

The discovery of 24-year-old Tengku Sofyan, who could barely speak and was badly dehydrated, came as relief efforts accelerated across the southern Asian destruction zone. He was sent to a hospital in Banda Aceh, on the northern tip of Sumatra, the hardest hit region where an estimated 100,000 died when the most powerful earthquake in four decades ripped a fault line beneath the sea bed 100 miles off shore. The tsunami it spawned turned the world upside down for people living as far away as Somalia, 3,000 miles away on the east coast of Africa.

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Michael Richardson: Support builds for Indian Ocean tsunami alert system

Killer waves triggered by undersea earthquakes have been relatively rare in the Indian Ocean. But the enormity of the disaster following last week's massive upheaval off Indonesia has shocked governments around the region and created an official groundswell of support for an international tsunami warning system similar to one that has long operated in the Pacific.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon is among those who have called for such a system. Australia's Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, said Canberra was launching an initiative to establish a co-ordinated alert network for the Indian Ocean area that could help save lives and minimise damage from future tsunamis.

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Tsunami aid reaches isolated Aceh



US helicopters have begun dropping food and medical supplies in isolated parts of Aceh province in Indonesia that were worst hit by last Sunday's tsunami.
Many remote communities there have been completely cut off and it is difficult to get aid in, relief workers say.

In the second-worst affected country, Sri Lanka, there were fears of disease after heavy rains and flash flooding.

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