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Thursday, January 06, 2005

Death toll in Somali tidal wave climbs to nearly 300: govt

MOGADISHU - The toll of people killed in Somalia when a deadly tsunami tidal wave struck the country's Indian Ocean coast ten days ago has climbed to nearly 300 people, officials said on Wednesday, updating the toll from 176.
"Some 298 people have died. This includes those who are not yet accounted for," Mohammed Abdi Gagab, the vice president of the Somali northeastern state of Puntland, told a press conference in region's capital Garowe. Over the weekend, Somalia authorities gave the toll as 176, basing it on the number of bodies recovered so far. Gagab explained that some 17,000 families were displaced by the tsumani wave, which was sparked by an earthquake off the Indonesian island of Sumatra on December 26, and spread carnage across Indian Ocean shorelines. Nearly 150,000 have been confirmed dead in the four hardest hit nations -- Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand -- in what the United Nations suggested could end up as one of the deadliest natural disasters ever recorded. On Tuesday, United Nations said more than 54,000 people were affected by the wave and appealed for 13.1 million dollars (9.9 million euros) to assist them. Somalia, which is the only hard-hit African country, lacks any effective disaster-response mechanism, having been ravaged by anarchy since 1991 when dictator Mohammed Siad Barre was toppled, plunging the nation into lawlessness. Accordingly, insecurity is widespread and basic infrastructure has been ruined. These bottlenecks have barred aid workers from accessing all areas affected by the deadly waves

Surfer rode tsunami wave to safety

A veteran surfer has told how he was forced to ride a towering tsunami to save his life as it engulfed an idyllic Sri Lankan village.

Martin Hambrook, 40, from Porthcawl, south Wales, was in the sea off the island's southern coast waiting for what he hoped would be a perfect wave.

Partner Vicky Maxwell, 42, and son Jai, 7, were watching from the beach as the horrific form of the tsunami appeared on the horizon.

The family-of-three fly to Sri Lanka every year and were staying at the Hansa Surf Lodge, in Hikkaduwa, when the giant wave hit on Boxing Day.

His partner and son were forced to flee to the safety of their nearby hotel balcony and watch in horror as the wave scooped him up.

"It was really terrible because I was surfing on a wave I wasn't supposed to be on," Mr Hambrook told Wales on Sunday newspaper in an exclusive interview.

"As an experienced surfer, when I saw the wave come I realised something was wrong, but I couldn't escape because the surfboard was tied to my ankle."

Despite the ferocity of the wave, he stayed on his board as he was carried over the sandy beach right up to the hotel.

He leapt off in the restaurant as the sea withdrew and a second wave, about 10 metres high, rolled in. The family then fled to higher ground.

All three survived the devastation which has claimed thousands of lives and have opted to stay on the island to help local people clear wreckage



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Tsunami catastrophe spawns tidal wave of generosity from touched Canadians

TORONTO (CP) - The tsunami catastrophe that devastated coastal communities around south Asia and east Africa has spawned a deluge of generosity from Canadians for whom the seemingly far-flung disaster appears to have hit close to home.

Experts say soaring cash donations from individuals are being fuelled in part by a deep-rooted need to do something to help the victims, many of them children, and partly by a sense of belonging to an ever-shrinking global village.

"There's some sense of identification with (the victims)," said Leslie Greenberg, a psychology professor at York University.

"I feel a lot of compassion or concern because that could have been me and then I want to do something."

In Peterborough, Ont., for example, children and adults alike literally lined up at the Red Cross, some clutching piggy banks, others simply with chequebooks in hand, as they patiently waited to make a donation to the relief effort.

The disaster struck during a holiday season marked by family get-togethers, good will and gift-giving as many Canadians were still digesting their Christmas dinners, in stark contrast to what was occurring halfway around the planet.

"It's a time when people are with family, people's psyche is around giving, around generosity," said Linda Tripp, vice-president of World Vision Canada.

"It really motivated people to say, 'I've got so much. I'm so blessed. I need somehow to respond to this.' "

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A survivor's tale

NOTE: THIS IS AN ACCOUNT OF WHAT HAPPENED ON 26th DECEMBER 2004 TO ONE OF THE TSUNAMI SUVIVOR

No clue. We just knew that Thai people were crying and that we had to go."

Within minutes of the giant wave a warning went out. Michelle and the others in the market were rushed up to the mountains. "We felt extremely lucky because we would have been on that beach. We would have been snorkeling that day."

Instead she was safe on a hillside hearing the harrowing stories of survival. "What they described is like the water went out fifty meters and then came in and just came over their heads and they just held onto a tree and held on." Hours later Anglin would see the destruction for herself. Anglin considers herself very lucky, especially now. "Great to know that I can hug (her relatives) again and like be here."

Anglin's mother did not wait for her daughter to come home. She met her in England and they made the last leg of this trying trip together. "It's good to have the little gal home," says Nancy Anglin. "Home for the holidays I told her next year."
Anglin's family is planning a welcome home party for her this weekend



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Tsunami Didn't Redraw Asian Coastlines

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Aerial images of tsunami-battered coastlines suggest the world map may be changed forever, with chunks of land sinking into the sea. But did the quake and the killer wave it spawned really significantly reshape the Indian Ocean's outline? Scientists say probably not.

Almost all the apparent land fragmentation is likely due to temporary flooding, experts say. However, there are signs — still too early to verify — that a handful of isolated Indian islands near the center of the quake or its aftershocks may indeed have changed.

Cecep Subarya, of Indonesia's National Coordination Agency for Surveys and Mapping, says no new islands have been spotted, and no existing islands have been seen to vanish or split up off the northwest coast of Indonesia's Sumatra island, the earthquake's epicenter.

Nor has Sumatra's coast been reshaped, he said.

Experts say nearly all the rest of the region is too far from the epicenter for the physical geography to have been affected. Those areas look different now because of flooding from the tsunami, but the water will recede.

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World Leaders Open Tsunami Aid Conference

JAKARTA, Indonesia - World leaders opened an emergency summit Thursday with a moment of silence for the tens of thousands of tsunami victims, before focusing on the best way to rush nearly $4 billion pledged worldwide to millions of survivors.

Secretary of State Colin Powell announced that the group of countries, including the United States, which led initial relief efforts, will now turn its work over to the United Nations

"The core group helped to catalyze the international response. Now having served its purpose, will fold itself into the broader coordination efforts of the United Nations," Powell said in remarks presented at the summit.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the gathering that the world was in a race against time to get food, medicine and supplies to the neediest.

"Millions in Asia, Africa, and even in far away countries, are suffering unimaginable trauma and psychological wounds that will take a long time to heal," he said. "The disaster was so brutal, so quick, and so far-reaching, that we are still struggling to comprehend it."

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Tsunami stories: Star boosts reliefaid by $1.4m



Sandra Bullock has given US$1million ($1.4 million) to the American Red Cross tsunami relief fund, the organisation said.

The funds from the Hollywood actress will be used to provide relief supplies, financial support and technical assistance.

The star of Speed and While You Were Sleeping also gave US$1 million after the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.

London department store Harrods kicked off its New Year sale by pledging to donate 2 per cent of the day’s takings - an estimated £150,000 ($407,000) - to the tsunami relief effort.

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