Taufik Batisah - Asia Tsunami Blog

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Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Foreigners Dead, Missing in Asia Calamity

The tally of foreigners confirmed dead from the quake and tsunamis throughout southern Asia, according to their countries' foreign ministries.

Figures also include the most recent available numbers of missing based on official estimates by governments.
- Germany: 60 dead. More than 1,000 missing.
- Sweden: 52 dead. 2,322 missing.
- Britain: 40 dead. 159 missing.
- Switzerland: 23 dead. 500 missing.
- France: 22 dead. 90 missing.
- Japan: 21 dead.
- Italy: 18 dead. 436 missing

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Elephants Help Clear Debris in Thailand

BANG NIENG, Thailand (AP) -- A year ago, they were filming battle scenes for the movie "Alexander." Now six elephants are pitching in to help with the massive cleanup from the tsunami that devastated many of Thailand's prime tourist destinations.

The massive waves, which killed 5,000 and left nearly 4,000 missing in Thailand, dumped debris more than a mile from the popular beaches of Phuket island and Phang Nga province a week ago. While heavy machinery works on the tangled wreckage that used to be posh seafront resorts, some areas are too muddy or hilly for anything other than 4 foot drive.

So the Wang Chang elephant farm in the 17th-century Thai capital of Ayuddhaya offered to send in its best pachyderms. They arrived by truck Sunday in Phang Nga and got to work immediately - after a quick shower to cool off in the tropical heat.

"The six were chosen because they are smart and can act on command," said Romthongsai Meephan, one of the elephant farm's owners.

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India Accused of Blocking Tsunami Aid

PORT BLAIR, India (AP) -- India's refusal to allow access to the remote Andaman and Nicobar islands is preventing aid from reaching the most desperate survivors of last week's tsunamis, international aid groups said Monday, as the country's death toll was expected to top 15,000.

Despite the Dec. 26 tsunami that ripped through the low-lying atolls, the Indian government has stood by its long-standing policy of restricting entry to the islands out of concerns for the security of a military air base as well as the protection of indigenous tribes.

"This closed-door approach of not allowing NGOs (non-governmental organizations) is delaying relief efforts," said Shaheen Nilofer, program manager for Eastern India for international aid agency Oxfam.

"Valuable time has been lost because of this delay. (India is) accelerating the miseries of the poor people," she said. "Somewhere, someone has to be responsible. If you don't take care of the survivors, the number of deaths can far outnumber the deaths from the tsunami."

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Scientists: Tsunami Could Hit West Coast

Tsunami scientists and public safety officials are closely watching an earthquake-prone nation with thousands of miles of crowded coastlines for signs of an imminent disaster. Indonesia? Japan? Try the United States.

Experts say the West Coast could experience a calamity similar to the one they have been watching unfold half a world away.

"People need to know it could happen," said geologist Brian Atwater of the U.S. Geological Survey.

Scientists say grinding geologic circumstances similar to those in Sumatra also exist just off the Pacific Northwest coast. They are a loaded gun that could trigger a tsunami that could hit Northern California, Washington, Oregon and British Columbia in minutes - too fast for the nation's deep-sea tsunami warning system to help.

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Airport Closing Hurts Tsunami Aid Efforts

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (AP) -- The world's efforts to pour aid into Indonesia's tsunami-battered Sumatra island hit a snag on Tuesday with the closure of its main airport for relief flights after a supply plane hit a herd of cows on its runway.

Global leaders, meanwhile, were heading to southern Asia to get a firsthand glimpse of the damage by the Dec. 26 disaster and to hammer out a plan to help the millions of victims. Secretary of State Colin Powell - who was in Thailand on Tuesday - pledged America's full support.

The confirmed death toll for Asia and Africa stood at 139,410 - almost 100,000 of those in Sumatra

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Powell touring tsunami countries, says relief going 'exceptionally well'

BANGKOK, Thailand – Secretary of State Colin Powell said Monday the relief effort for countries devastated by the tsunami was going "exceptionally well" and he sees no immediate need for more U.S. governmental money.

In Washington, President Bush announced a nationwide, private fund-raising effort to provide additional aid for tsunami victims. "Cash donations are most useful," the president said.

Powell is spending several days in Thailand, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, three of the Indian Ocean countries with heavy damage and loss of life. The death toll from last week's disaster is approaching 140,000 and is expected to rise.

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Tsunami survivors 'too weak to get aid'

Villagers who fled to higher ground when the tsunami ravaged Indonesia's Sumatran coast more than a week ago may now be too weak from hunger to come down to get aid that is finally getting into the area, a relief official says.

US Navy helicopters flew more than two dozen relief missions to stricken towns on Monday, dropping food parcels and evacuating about 60 people to an ad hoc aid station at a provincial city airport staffed by medical teams from Australia, China, Taiwan and other places.

But many others in need may still be in the jungle-clad mountains inland to which they fled, scrounging for whatever food they can find and gradually weakening from hunger, said Supranto, an official with the UN-affiliated International Organisation of Migration.

"These people haven't eaten rice for five or six days," said Supranto, who like many Indonesians uses just one name.

"For an Indonesian, that's really bad. No matter how poor you are in Indonesia, you can always eat rice.

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Singapore Red Cross raises S$15 million for tsunami victims

SINGAPORE : A week after its launch, the Singapore Red Cross relief fund has raised more than S$15 million for tsunami victims.

Thirty-five crates of relief supplies, including rice, drinking water and masks, from the Red Cross were loaded onto the Navy's Landing Ship Tank RSS Persistence at Changi Naval Base to be sent to Aceh for tsunami victims there.

The ship heads for Aceh on Tuesday.

The Public Utilities Board is also doing its part by sending more than a thousand bags of water to the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Aceh.

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Families of tsunami victims trying to come to terms with loss

SINGAPORE: Eight days after Stephanie Ong and Edlyn Yap were killed in the tsunami disaster, their families and friends are still trying to come to terms with the sudden loss.

Three-year-old Tan Wei En is the pride and joy of Stephanie Ong who lost her life in Phuket when the tsunami hit.

The 42-year-old mother tried many years before she had her first and only child.

But the boy may not remember just how much his mother loved and doted on him, or the tragic event which took her away.

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U.N. accepts Singapore's relief hub offer

Singapore, Singapore, Jan. 3 (UPI) -- The United Nations Monday accepted Singapore's offer to serve as a hub to organize its relief efforts in the areas affected by the recent quake and tsunami.

Singapore's offer includes the use of its Air and Naval bases, the use of its aircraft and helicopter carriers and the setting up of the U.N. Regional Coordination Center, a dedicated administration, secretariat, command, control and communications, and media support center.

The United Nations has indicated logistical constraints caused by overloaded airports and other bottlenecks are holding up the distribution of aid, and a coordinating center in Singapore should help alleviate the problem.

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Funeral for Land Rover relief mission leader to be held on Friday

SINGAPORE: The funeral of Richard Fong, leader of a Land Rover relief mission to Krabi, will be held on Friday.

Richard was killed in a road accident two days ago when his Land Rover swerved suddenly and flipped a few times before crashing to a stop.

Richard was on his way to deliver much-needed supplies to tsunami-stricken victims when he met with the accident.

To his friends, Richard was the adventurer, always game for excitement.

To his family, Richard was the filial and only son in a family of six sisters.

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Singapore's PM, defence minister to visit tsunami-hit Indonesian cities

SINGAPORE : Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean will on Tuesday visit the Indonesian cities of Medan, Banda Aceh and Meulaboh, areas where most of Singapore's relief personnel are stationed.

As part of the second phase of its relief efforts in the tsunami-battered country, Singapore is sending four more Chinook helicopters to Indonesia.

Mr Teo says that Singapore is responding to an urgent need for heavy-lift helicopters to ferry supplies to the least accessible disaster areas.

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Many Thousands Cut Off From Relief

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia, Jan. 3 -- U.N. relief officials warned Monday that tens of thousands of people affected by the earthquake and tsunami in South Asia have not received help and that some are dying because ruined roads and bad communications are preventing the distribution of supplies.

International relief groups have delivered only one-eighth of the 400,000 tons of food flown into affected parts of Indonesia, said Michael Elmquist, chief of the U.N. office coordinating the rescue effort in the country. He said the delivery of lifesaving food and medicine has been slowed by impassable highways, severed telecommunications and airports unable to accommodate enough relief flights.

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Tsunami Toll May Rise as Sumatra Villages Are Reached

Jan. 4 (Bloomberg) -- The death toll from the Dec. 26 tsunami disaster may rise above the estimated 150,000 victims, as rescuers start to reach remote villages on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, the Indonesian Red Cross said.

Indonesia's death toll ``could exceed 100,000,'' Iyang Sukandar, secretary general of the Indonesian Red Cross, said today in a telephone interview from Medan in Sumatra. Indonesia said yesterday that more than 94,000 are known to have died.

Aceh province on the west coast of Sumatra was closest to the epicenter of the magnitude-9 earthquake that triggered the tsunamis. It may never be known how many of the 2 million people living in fishing villages were washed to sea and may never be found, Jan Egeland, United Nations emergency relief coordinator, said yesterday in New York.

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