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UN warns many more dead in Indonesia BANDA ACEH - The chaotic operation to help Indonesia's tsunami survivors stalled after a plane crash blocked the relief effort's main airport, as the UN warned there could be tens of thousands of new deaths. Even as hundreds of workers backed by helicopters descended on Aceh province on Sumatra island, the area worst-hit, the UN's aid coordination chief said the full horror of the death and ruin had yet to be realized.
The flow of emergency supplies suffered a setback when an accident involving a Boeing 737 cargo plane and a buffalo blocked the runway at the main city of Banda Aceh for 15 hours, delaying flights to the hub of the relief operation. Aircraft, including seven ferrying 35 medical officers, volunteers and medical supplies from Jakarta, were grounded by the accident, but helicopters in Aceh were able to continue to airlift stockpiled aid.
US military spokesman Captain Matt Klunder said the airport was cleared later Tuesday, and US helicopter sorties were not affected. "Fortunately today we had enough aid and supply gear that we were not set back ... tomorrow would have been an horrendous problem," said Klunder. In Jakarta, key representatives of major world organisations and foreign governments were beginning to arrive to see some of the devastation and to prepare for a summit on recovering from and preventing a repeat of the tragedy.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell arrived on Tuesday evening from Thailand and immediately headed into a meeting with Indonesian Foreign Minister Hasan Wirayuda. Although Indonesia's confirmed toll has remained steady at around 94,000, senior United Nations officials warned that it could drastically increase as a clearer picture emerges from isolated towns on Aceh's directly hit west coast. UN emergency relief coordinator Jan Egeland said the fatality figure in the main western town of Meulaboh could account for more than half of its 50,000 residents, meaning Indonesia's toll could "grow exponentially".
"As we are getting in substantial relief finally to Aceh, we are concentrating now our main attention as an operation to the western coast of northern Sumatra," he said. Egeland earlier said Sumatra's toll could reach 150,000. "We have not yet, I think, fully grasped that this was the epicentre of the catastrophe. Many of these villages are gone. There is no trace left," he said, adding that relief had yet to reach many west coast areas.
Such was the extent of the damage in Meulaboh and other smaller towns on the west coast that the Indonesian government was considering abandoning attempts to rebuild, instead relocating them farther away from the sea. More than 50 foreign aid agencies were trying to reach remote areas from Banda Aceh backed by military personnel from countries including Australia, the United States, Malaysia, New Zealand and the Philippines.
A huge tented city of aid workers has grown up in Banda Aceh, where power and clean water were now available, but many workers lack their own fuel and transport to head beyond the city. With roads to most affected areas impassable, the operation has become dependent on limited squadrons of helicopters, which have evacuated many desperate and injured villagers they have encountered on their sorties.
The US navy said it would shortly have reinforcements arriving as a flotilla headed by the USS Bonhomme Richard steamed up the Strait of Malacca to join the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier moored off Aceh's coast. Navy liaison officer Lieutenant Commander Michael Hsu said one of the group's smaller vessels would try to reach Meulaboh, where the Indonesian navy has already dispatched four frigates.
Although the United Nations is ostensibly trying to oversee aid efforts, Australia was Tuesday developing a plan to take a leading role in the recovery of its neighbour with a reported 385 million dollar aid package. Australian Prime Minister John Howard is among delegates expected later this week in Jakarta at an emergency tsunami summit that will also include Powell, Japanese leader Junichiro Koizumi and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
Thursday's summit will focus on drumming up new aid and creating an early warning system for the Indian Ocean to prevent a repeat of the devastation caused when a magnitude 9.0 earthquake off Sumatra unleashed killer tsunamis. In another development, the UN's Children's Fund warned that human traffickers were preying on children left homeless or orphaned by the disaster with one case confirmed already.

Posted in Earthquake @ 05 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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