- (Agencies) -- The death toll from the Indian Ocean tsunami
is set to rise "exponentially" above current estimates of 150,000
as relief workers reach remote villages and survivors succumb to disease,
UN officials warned today.
- Indonesia has confirmed 94,081 fatalities - two thirds
of the total tsunami death toll - but Jan Egeland, the UN emergency relief
coordinator, said helicopter flights over the west coast of the island
of Sumatra had revealed greater destruction than had first been thought.
- The area's remote villages were closest to the epicentre
of the earthquake that triggered the Boxing Day tsunami, and could add
tens of thousands to the fatality figures. "Many, many of these villages
are gone. There is no trace of them," Mr Egeland said. "They
hardly had roads before. Now they have nothing. The death toll will grow
- The World Health Organisation, the UN's health agency,
warned in a report, published today, that a lack of clean drinking water
could lead to epidemics of typhoid, dysentery or cholera among the tsunami's
- Spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said an increase in incidences
of diarrhoea was a warning sign of worse to come. The WHO was distributing
millions of water purification tablets and using engineers to repair water
and sanitation facilities, she added.
- She said malaria and dengue fever were a longer-term
threat as flooded areas become breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Overcrowded
living conditions increased the risk of pneumonia, measles, influenza and
- In eastern Sri Lanka, one of 11 countries hit by the
giant waves, heavy rains have flooded camps accommodating hundreds of thousands
of people made homeless by the tsunami.
- At the RMK Boys School, housing around 1,500 people from
the villages of Karaitivu, women and children huddled in the assembly hall,
marooned by ankle deep water on all sides. "Look at all this water,"
Savaguru Puvaneswaran told Reuters. "The children are getting sick.
There is a problem with the toilets, with all this water, with disease."
- Charities face difficulties in delivering aid
- The largest relief effort in history is attempting to
reach the millions of homeless and injured tsunami survivors, but logistical
problems are continuing to hamper the work.
- Charities said they were continuing to face huge difficulties
in supplying aid, battling against destroyed roads and ports and a limited
number of aircraft in which to ferry supplies to remote areas.
- Aid flights to an Indonesian airport at the hub of relief
efforts to the devastated Aceh province, on the island of Sumatra, today
resumed after a collision between an incoming relief plane and a herd of
cows closed the airfield for 17 hours.
- Soldiers from the US, Australia, India, Malaysia, Singapore
and Germany had been unloading plane after plane at Banda Aceh's airport
until the incident.
- Ron Redmond, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner
for Refugees, said it was facing "huge logistical challenges"
in Aceh, and might use both barges and helicopters to deliver food and
water to remote areas. British forces today made a first aerial survey
of parts of Sri Lanka destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami.
- Internal unrest in Aceh and Sri Lanka - there are armed
secessionist groups in both - also threatens the easy movement of aid and
- A rebel-backed politician in Sri Lanka, where the Tamil
Tigers control some of the worst affected areas, today warned supporters
that US and Indian troops engaged in relief efforts could use the operation
as a cover to spy on the rebels.
- "The attempt by the American and Indian troops to
land in Sri Lanka is totally based on their political and military interests.
They may try to collect details to help the government crush the Tamil
national struggle in a future conflict," Nallathamby Srikantha, the
leader of the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation, told Voice of Tigers
- Germany set to become biggest donor
- As world leaders including Colin Powell, the outgoing
US secretary of state, arrived in the region ahead of a donor conference
in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, on Thursday, the closure of the airport
in Banda Aceh illustrated the difficulties facing the aid effort despite
- According to Reuters, Germany is set to increase its
contribution to Ä500m (£350m), becoming the biggest donor nation.
Private donations from the British public were expected to exceed the £110m
raised by Live Aid and become the biggest fundraising campaign in UK history.
- The foreign secretary, Jack Straw, had earlier said he
believed the government would "at least match, and I'm sure exceed"
the amount pledged by the public in the long term.
- Germany set to boost aid funds
- UK calls for freeze on debt payments
- The chancellor, Gordon Brown, today called for a freeze
on foreign debts owed by the countries hit by the Indian Ocean tsunami
- "What we are suggesting is an immediate moratorium
on debt repayments from the afflicted countries," he told the BBC.
- "That would then lead to an analysis of the debt
needs of these countries with the possibility of some write-off of debt."
Mr Brown's comments came as Britain assumed the presidency of the G8 group
of industrialised countries.
- Brown plans debt relief for tsunami nations
- Powell and Jeb Bush visit Thailand
- Mr Powell, who was today visiting Thailand with George
Bush's brother Jeb, the Florida governor, said the US would provide assistance,
but added that an effort on the scale of the Marshall plan was probably
- Washington was accused of being stingy for its initial
$15m (£7.9m) aid commitment, which was later raised to $35m (£18.4m)
and then $350m (£184m) as the scale of the tragedy became clear.
- "One thing the Thai people can be sure of is that
they have a friend and ally in the United States. President Bush is determined
to do everything we can to assist Thailand," Mr Powell told a news
conference on the resort island of Phuket, the centre of the Thai relief
operations. He said US aid packages would be decided country by country.
- Thailand, a relatively wealthy country, has refused financial
aid and India has declined assistance from foreign governments.
- Mr Bush hopes that sending Mr Powell and his own brother
to the region will show that US concern is genuine and deep following sharp
criticism of his failure to speak publicly about the disaster for three
- Thailand's foreign minister, Surakiart Sathirathai, praised
what he called "prompt and effective" US assistance.
- He said the country was seeking to use US expertise to
build a tsunami early warning system "to bring back the confidence
of tourists". Close to half of the 5,200 known dead and half of the
3,800 missing were foreign tourists
- European dead are brought home
- Coffins carrying the bodies of the first Swedish victims
to be returned to their home country following the tsunami disaster were
today loaded on to a Swedish military plane as European governments struggled
to assess the numbers of dead and missing.
- Although Denmark and Norway downwardly revised their
numbers of missing people, the numbers of dead tourists were expected to
increase as the identification and discovery of bodies continued.
- Sweden, the European country hit hardest by the disaster,
has warned that its death toll could rise to 1,000. So far, the government
has confirmed 52 deaths, with a further 827 people missing. It said it
had no information about 1,495 others believed to have been holidaying
in the region.
- EU foreign ministers will hold emergency talks on Friday,
at which the 25-nation bloc's response to the tsunami disaster will be
- An EU team headed by the European aid commissioner, Louis
Michel, and Luxembourg's aid minister, Jean-Louis Schiltz, is touring the
Indian Ocean region to assess its aid needs.
- A three minute silence in memory of those killed in the
tsunami disaster will be observed across Europe from noon tomorrow.
- Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited
- From Jim Mortellaro
- I find it interesting that the UN representatives in
tsunami disaster areas have booked themselves into the best of hotels,
making certain that the one important thing needed (for their presence
there and needed from the Hotels) is a good catering service.
- In the meantime, our troops and American Aid volunteers
are parked in tents and wherever they can find adequate shelter where the
people they are helping are located.
- Someone please tell me just what the heck the UN needs
with those fancy digs. The joke among American Aid workers is, "The
UN is a traveling First Class Hotel suite.
- No wonder that the UN's food for oil programs are being
investigated. The money needed to pay for their high price labors gotta
come from someplace, eh?