Tsunami Death Toll
Will Rise 'Exponentially' - UN

The Guardian - UK
(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 exponentially."
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 survivors.
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 meningitis.
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 aid workers.
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 radio.
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 record donations.
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 disaster.
"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 not needed.
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 days.
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 discussed.
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 2005,15671,1382973,00.html
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?



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