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Friday, January 07, 2005

Volunteer doctors urged to prepare well

South Australian health professionals wanting to help in the tsunami relief effort are being told it may be some time before they are needed in the region.

The state's Australian Medical Association branch is urging medical personnel to ensure they are properly prepared to work in the region by getting adequately vaccinated and improving their language skills.

State AMA president Dr William Heddle says health professionals should be congratulated for their prompt response to the call to help.

But he says it may be some months before their services are needed in the region.

"It's likely that for at least the next 12 months there will need to be on-going medical health support to Indonesia in particular because of the devastation which has occurred," he said.

"Obviously time will tell but there's likely to be capacity to take up all the volunteers who are wanting to go."

Read more here

Family, school friends farewell tsunami victim

Hundreds of people have gathered in Melbourne to mourn the death of 16-year-old Paul Giardina, at the first Victorian funeral for a victim of the Asian tsunami.

The teenager, who had Down Syndrome, was holidaying in Phuket with his parents and was swept away in the torrent.

Relatives found his body in Patong Hospital three days later.

St Anthony's Catholic Church in Hawthorn was packed with his friends, family and classmates from the Merriang Special School for a traditional requiem mass.
John Lennon's Beautiful Boy was played as his flower-draped coffin was carried into the church.

Delivering the eulogy, his principal Ann Georgis described Paul as a sociable, happy teenager, who adored his family and had a trademark smile.

Speaking on behalf of his parents, she said Paul taught his family how to love and laugh, and was affectionately called the "love machine".

Coloured balloons were released into the sky as the church bells tolled to farewell the teenager.

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Europe asks for clarification on tsunami mass graves

Sweden's ambassador to Thailand, as well as Dutch and German representatives, have formally asked the Thai Foreign Ministry for information about the reported use of mass graves to bury tsunami victims.
A spokesman for the Swedish Foreign Ministry says if the mass graves are confirmed, the European countries want to know whether the bodies of tourists are being buried there permanently, temporarily pending identification, or not at all.
Some media reports have said mass graves were only being used to bury Thais who had already been identified, while others said they were used to store the bodies of victims temporarily to prevent the spread of disease.
Meanwhile, the outgoing head of the United Nations Development Program, Mark Malloch Brown, says a long-term commitment to aid is essential for south Asia.
"Clearly, governments are indicating that not only are they going to kind of contribute today against the UN flash appeal, but they're going to stick with this," he said.
"Everybody's interested in making sure there are some long-term arrangements that keep things moving forward."

Rising sea levels could undo post-tsunami reconstruction

An Australian think tank says the reconstruction of coastlines damaged by the Asian tsunami must take into account the effect of climate change on sea levels.

Clive Hamilton from the Australia Institute says the billions of dollars in aid committed to the rebuilding effort could be wasted, if infrastructure is rebuilt in the same place.

He says sea levels are expected to rise by almost a metre by the end of this century, and any new buildings should be constructed at least 50 metres back from the existing shoreline.

"It's vital that adequate zones of protection are provided between any new structures, roads, railways, houses and the shoreline and some countries are already preparing for sea level rise by establishing 'no-build' zones close to the current high tide marks," he said.

"Enormously tragic as this tsunami has been, it does provide an opportunity for us to rebuild in those devastated regions in a way that will protect them from sea-level rise in the future."

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PM calls for a minute's silence on day of mourning

The Prime Minister has revealed more details of plans for Australia's national day of mourning for the tsunami disaster.

John Howard has encouraged people to observe a minute's silence at 11:59am on Sunday January 16.

It is the same time the earthquake struck nearly two weeks ago and triggered a tsunami across the Indian Ocean.

Mr Howard has also asked people to wear wattle on the day and says Australian flags will fly at half-mast.

As well as attending a Christian church service, the Prime Minister will also attend a Buddhist or Hindu place of worship.

Read more here

Tsunami death toll passes 165,000

The number of people killed when an earthquake and tsunamis devastated Indian Ocean coastlines on December 26 has passed 165,000 as more deaths were confirmed.

In Indonesia, which bore the brunt of the disaster, the death toll has climbed to 113,306, the Social Affairs Ministry's relief coordination centre told AFP on Friday.
The United Nations has warned that tens of thousands more dead may be as yet unaccounted for in Indonesia.

The figure, given by the head of the relief coordination centre, Haji Daeng, raises the number of people confirmed killed in Indonesia by nearly 20,000 from the previous day's tally of 94,200.

In Sri Lanka, 30,615 were confirmed killed, the Government said. Another 4,356 people were still missing.

In neighbouring India, the official toll stood at 9,995 people confirmed dead, but the number of missing dropped to 5,679, most of them presumed dead.

Interior Ministry figures for Thailand put the death toll at 5,291 - 2,568 Thais, 2,510 foreigners and 213 whose indentity could not be determined.

The number of people listed as missing fell sharply to 3,570 - 1,143 foreigners and 2,427 Thais - down from nearly 3,716, as some people were found to have made reports of missing people at several centres, an official said.

Burma's Prime Minister Soe Win said on Thursday 59 people were killed in the tsunamis and more than 3,200 left homeless. This was down from the UN's estimated 90.

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Donor nations agree to set up tsunami warning system

The number of missing in Indonesia from the tsunami disaster has nearly doubled to more than 10,000.
Annan is touring the area to see first hand the magnitude of the disaster.
Nearly 163,000 people are now confirmed dead from the earthquake and tsunamis that hit twelve nations.
The U.N. head has also called for the international community to stop the threat of a second wave of death from preventable diseases.
World leaders have pledged to work together on relief and reconstruction and establish a warning system to help avoid a similar disaster in the Indian Ocean.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Thursday in Jakarta that the United Nations will take over coordination of the relief effort from a core group of nations.
Powell had convened the core group -- the United States, Australia, Japan, India, Canada and the Netherlands -- at U.S. President George W. Bush's request following criticism his administration had not responded aggressively enough to the crisis.

Tsunami Death Toll Rises to About 145,000

JAKARTA, Indonesia - World leaders wrapped up a one-day summit on Asia's earthquake and tsunamis, hoping to find the best way to help victims — and to prevent such a catastrophe from happening again. Indonesia reported more than 4,000 new deaths on Friday, pushing the overall toll to about 145,000.

Even as more deaths from the initial effects of the natural disaster were announced, health officials warned that secondary deaths from hunger or disease would push the toll higher without a steady supply of aid to the region.
Donors concluded an emergency summit Thursday as relief workers scrambled to move aid to areas of Sumatra, the Indonesian island hit hardest by the earthquake and giant waves that crashed ashore Dec. 26. Volunteers hurled sacks of rice and instant noodles into trucks as U.S. helicopters loaded with other supplies buzzed overhead en route to isolated communities.
A new potential danger emerged, this time to the American and Australian military teams assisting the tsunami survivors. A radical Islamic group once headed by an al-Qaida-linked terror chief set up a relief camp in Sumatra. The militants, known for attacking Christians on Indonesia's far-flung islands, insisted they would not interfere with foreign troops — so long as they kept to humanitarian operations.