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Indonesia gives up counting its dead JAKARTA - Indonesia has given up on trying to count the exact number of dead from Sunday's Indian Ocean tsunami so it can get on with the task of burying tens of thousands of disaster victims whose corpses lay rotting on the devastated island of Sumatra. As the sun set on Asia for the last time this year, millions were homeless, many of them with no clean water to drink and little or no food.
New Year's parties across the region have been cancelled and the tinsel and decorations removed from hotels, bars and offices, even in areas well away from the destruction. The traditional new year fireworks over Sydney Harbour went ahead as scheduled, but only after a minute's silence and in a notably more subdued atmosphere than normal. Paris draped black crepe over the trees on the Champs Elysees as a mark of respect.
America, under pressure about the amount of aid it had given to the disaster relief, dramatically raised its contribution from $35 to $350 million. The White House has suggested the tenfold increase could be further boosted after a delegation led by Colin Powell reports back from its visit to the devastated areas next week.
British donors continued to give at an unprecedented rate after the Boxing Day disaster. An emergency appeal launched on Wednesday night had already raised 45 million by this evening - at a rate of almost 1 million an hour - and individual charities were raising millions more independently. "Many of us are going to be bringing in the New Year tonight. As we do, let's spare a thought for the millions who have been left homeless or who have lost family members as a result of this tragic disaster," said Brendan Gormley, head of the Disasters Emergency Committee. "Even the cost of a pint or a glass of wine can make a difference."
As the global relief effort stepped up a gear, Siti Fadilah Supari, the Indonesian Health Minister, said her officials would now offer only general estimates of the death toll because there were simply too many bodies to count. Government pledges for the relief effort now total more than half a billion dollars, almost one-fifth of it committed by Britain. But the aid is just beginning to get through and more harrowing tales emerged of bodies rotting in the sun and homeless villagers, their faces covered with masks against disease, begging food and water from rescue workers as they search for corpses.
The last official death toll from Indonesia was more than 79,000 but officials said it was expected to hit six figures. That would bring the total killed in the disaster to more than 140,000 in ten countries. Laila Freivalds, the Swedish Foreign Minister, predicted a final death toll approaching 200,000 as she returned from a trip to the region. Some 3,500 Swedes are still unaccounted for, many of them along the Khao Lak beach strip in Thailand.
A US naval battle group led by the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln was heading to take up position off Sumatra, where it will lead a multinational military effort to assist the survivors. It will be joined by warships from Singapore, Australia, India and Malaysia. A second US marine strike group is heading westward from the Pacific territory of Guam for the seas off Sri Lanka to help bring water and medical supplies to millions left homeless by the tsunami. A Thai Navy air base used by US B-52 bombers during the Vietnam War is turning into the hub for the relief effort.
Two Royal Navy ships and an RAF cargo plane are also being dispatched to the area, either to Sri Lanka or the Maldives. Downing Street said that the decision to commit UK military forces to the aid effort was made this morning by Tony Blair, after talks with John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, and Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary. "This is an unprecedented global catastrophe and it requires an unprecedented global response," said Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General. "Not only are were going to be stretched in terms of manpower and human resources, but we are also going to be stretched technically and financially."
Aid trucks laden with food, medicines and body bags rolled across Asia. Aircraft dropped supplies to cut-off villages as the relief operation, the biggest in history, finally swung into gear. Giant transport planes from Australia and Singapore landed at Banda Aceh, capital of Indonesia's worst-hit Aceh province. Experts warned that even before corpses could be counted, contagious disease could kill more, with children most at risk. "People need to be treated now so they don't get deep infections," said Peter Sharwood, an Australian surgeon in Aceh. Those who had life-threatening injuries to start with have probably already died."
Indonesia said it would host an international tsunami summit on January 6 to hammer out aid and reconstruction needs after what looks set to be the most lethal natural disaster since China's Tangshan earthquake in 1976 killed at least a quarter of a million people. Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, will visit the region on Sunday, heading an assessment team that will also include Jeb Bush, President Bush's brother and the Governor of hurricane-scarred Florida.

Starvation, injury and disease were pushing massive numbers of refugees in Sumatra's Aceh province closer to death with each passing hour. UN officials warned. "The indications are the disaster is going to be a lot worse than we have anticipated already," a Unicef's John Budd said. "Aceh really is ground zero." Mr Budd said that up to 500,000 people were "extremely vulnerable" because of a lack of shelter, while 900,000 children were suffering from a combination of illness, injury, trauma, separation from families and being orphaned.
He said there was a desperate shortage of food and fuel across the province, which had already suffered from a lack of infrastructure due to a decades-long violent struggle between separatist rebels and the government. Indonesian officials said troops in the province were still fighting the rebels while trying to help channel aid supplies to tsunami victims. "There's no food, there's no fuel, it's a cruel situation, "Mr Budd said. "If we get food in, say, rice, there is no pure water or fuel to cook it. We are desperately trying to break this cycle."

Posted in Earthquake @ 01 January 2005 00:01 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink lists all earthquakes that occur in Indonesia. For your convenience we display them in a list and a Google Map. It is as accurate and recent as you can imagine as we check for updates every few minutes. If an earthquake occurs in Indonesia, this is the place to check it out in the first place.

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