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Disaster in SE asia


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Guest Lottie
lets stop regarding each other as different groups or nationalities, right now is a time to come together as a whole, as humanity.


I think the above is exactly right.

Its not about what country has donated the most amount of money its no competition, its about how we are pulling together as a 'global community' to help these people.

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Yes, just heard about Japan...that is fantastic!

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Thousands missing from Thai town

In one of the towns worst hit by the Asian tsunami, away from the main tourist beaches, thousands of Thais are still missing, police say.

Police in Baan Nam Khem said up to 3,000 people - more than half the town's population - were feared dead.

The Thai prime minister visited tourist areas on Sunday, and promised to take action on a tsunami warning system.

Religious services were held across the country for the thousands killed exactly a week before.

The Thai interior ministry said 4,985 people were confirmed dead, including 2,457 foreigners, 2,252 Thais and 276 whose background was unknown.

The figure for those listed as missing was reduced from 6,424 to 3,810.

Thailand's former prime minister Chuan Leekpai said the damage to Baan Nam Khem, a town of about 5,000 people, was the worst he had seen anywhere in the country.

Fishing boats up to 25m (82 feet) long were strewn among the smashed debris of the devastated town.

"We don't know how many are dead but we think about 3,000 are missing and we think most of those will be dead," police Captain Chanarong Pungantatmongkol told the French news agency AFP.

"It is hard to know the true number because there were many people here illegally from Burma."

Thais 'under strain'

Some Thais have complained that towns like Baan Nam Khem have been ignored, while the international relief effort has focused on foreign tourists.

They say that foreigners were put up in an international school with beds and internet connections, while Thais were left to sleep outside.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra responded to the criticism, saying: "Obviously we have to look after the foreigners but our priority now will be to help Thais find shelter.

"They are under a lot of stress and strain, sleeping in temporary shelters."

However he also vowed to help rehabilitate tourism, one of Thailand's biggest money earners.

Elephants deployed

On a visit to the ravaged shores of Phuket island, Mr Thaksin said he would ask for help in setting up tsunami warning systems when US Secretary of State Colin Powell visits on Tuesday.

Visitors and locals around Phuket island attended special church services held on Sunday.

"Me and my husband are safe because last Sunday we were here in the church in the morning," said Jala Shasachoza of the Czech Republic.

"If we didn't come there, we would be on the beach. That's why we can say the church saved our lives, maybe."

Meanwhile the clean-up effort continued, with elephants being deployed in some areas to help clear the debris.

Story from BBC NEWS:


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Tsunami aid reaches remote Aceh

US helicopters have started dropping food and medical supplies into isolated parts of Aceh province in Indonesia - worst hit by last Sunday's tsunami.

Many communities there have been completely cut off since the disaster that ravaged many countries across Asia and up to the shores of Africa.

But it is still proving difficult to get aid to some remote areas.

More than 94,000 people have been confirmed dead in Indonesia, out of at least 138,000 who died across Asia.

Indonesian officials say up to 100,000 people may have died there. Across Asia the UN says the number may exceed 150,000.

Survivors are still emerging from the ruins left by the huge quake-triggered waves.

In other developments:

US Secretary of State Colin Powell and President George W Bush's brother Jeb head for Thailand and Indonesia later on Sunday to see the devastation at first-hand

Police in Thailand say thousands of local people are still missing, presumed dead, in the town of Baan Nam Khem in Phang Nga province

Aid supplies have been air-dropped onto all of India's Andaman and Nicobar islands, after strong criticism from survivors that aid was slow to arrive

The UN children's agency, Unicef, urges more protection for thousands of children orphaned by the disaster

The leader of the worldwide Anglican Church, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, says the devastation in Asia will make believers in God question their faith.

Unable to land

About 12 American Seahawk helicopters are now delivering aid from a US aircraft carrier stationed off the coast of western Aceh, near the epicentre of the earthquake.

Over the last few days a bottleneck of aid materials from around the globe has been building up in the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, with relief workers unable to distribute it to outlying areas because much of the region's infrastructure had been destroyed by the quake.

"We are relying on the helicopter system because that is the only way we can reach the most remote areas," said Michael Elmquist, head of the UN disaster relief operation in Indonesia.

According to the World Food Programme, some helicopters are also unable to touch down because of mobs of people on the ground run towards them desperate for help.

As a result supplies are often being thrown out of the helicopters to the waiting crowds below.

Petty Officer Brennan Zwak of the US Navy said it was unbelievable how desperate the people were.

"They're crawling underneath the aircraft to get to the other side to see if there's a way in, they're knocking the pilots doors... they were swarming. They were pushing to get into the cabin to get to the food," he told BBC News.

One of the areas where aid has recently arrived is the stricken town of Meulaboh, where relief workers estimate that more than 10,000 people lost their lives in the earthquake and subsequent tsunamis.

The aid operation in Aceh remains without a visible strong leadership.

In this sensitive region - scene of a long-running conflict between Jakarta and separatist rebels - the government is unwilling to allow the US military unfettered access, says the BBC's Jonathan Head there, and there are few UN personnel on the ground.

Rain hampers work

Bodies are still lying in the streets of the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, and Alwi Shihab, Indonesia's social welfare minister, told the BBC that the authorities in and around the city were currently burying 3,500 to 4,000 bodies a day.

They hope to increase this to 6,000 a day so that all corpses would be buried within the next five days, he added.

In Sri Lanka, heavy rains have brought flash flooding, cutting off parts of the east and south-east of the island and seriously disrupting aid distribution.

Fears of an outbreak of waterborne disease among the hundreds of thousands of people thought to be flocking to emergency camps are high.


1. Indonesia: 80,246

2. Sri Lanka: 28,627

3. India (inc Andaman and Nicobar Is): 9,067

4. Thailand: 4,812

5. Somalia: 142

6. Burma: 53

7. Maldives: 73

8. Malaysia: 66

9. Tanzania: 10

10. Seychelles: 1

11. Bangladesh: 2

12. Kenya: 1

Story from BBC NEWS:


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UN 'optimistic' over aid effort

The UN's emergency relief co-ordinator has said he is increasingly optimistic about the massive relief effort under way in tsunami-afflicted countries.

Jan Egeland said he was more hopeful that "the global community will be able to face up to this enormous challenge".

But Mr Egeland said there are still major problems getting aid through to the province of Aceh in Indonesia.

More than 94,000 people have been confirmed dead in Indonesia, out of at least 138,000 who died across Asia.

The United Nations says the number killed by the sea surges exceeds 150,000 and may never be known as many bodies have been washed out to sea.

US helicopters have begun dropping supplies in isolated parts of Aceh, which was hardest hit in the disaster.

Roads and airstrips were destroyed by 26 December's earthquake or washed away by the ensuing tsunami waves, making it difficult to deliver aid.

In the second-worst affected country, Sri Lanka, there are fears of disease after heavy rains and flash flooding

In India, supplies were air-dropped onto the Andaman and Nicobar islands after criticism that aid was slow to arrive.

But people are still being found alive seven days after the disaster. The latest was a fisherman found under his boat which was flung by the waves onto the shore in Indonesia.

Operation cranks up

In controversial remarks shortly after the disaster hit, Mr Egeland accused rich countries of being "stingy" in their response.

But on Sunday he said he was more optimistic that the world could rise to the challenge.

He said logistical bottlenecks which had also hampered speedy delivery of aid were improving, with new co-ordination centres set up in Aceh, near the epicentre of the earthquake, and Jakarta.

Top regional officials have warned that in spite of improvements some places may not receive aid for up to two weeks.

About 12 American Seahawk helicopters are now delivering aid from a US aircraft carrier stationed off the coast of western Aceh.

The area has been completely cut off for a week, the BBC's Rachel Harvey reports from the provincial capital, Banda Aceh.

A vast swathe of coastline which was home to tens of thousands of people has been wiped out and survivors are living in a sea of mud without shelter or clean water.

Aid deliveries are relying on helicopters as the only way to reach the most remote areas but they are often unable to touch down because of mobs of people on the ground running towards them desperate for help.

Disease fears

The authorities in and around Banda Aceh say they are burying 3,500 to 4,000 bodies a day - hoping to increase this to 6,000 so that all corpses will be buried within the next five days.

The first contingent of US marines is scheduled to arrive in Sri Lanka on Sunday from a base in Okinawa, Japan, launching what will be the American military's largest-ever operation in Asia since the Vietnam War.

The marines will have 10 helicopters and two C-130 planes to distribute basic supplies to survivors.

A UN special envoy, Margarita Walstrom, said after a visit to Sri Lanka that there were no signs yet of disease but medical staff were anxious about sanitation.

In India, emergency personnel have now reached the most remote locations in the Andaman and Nicobar islands.

The runway at the tsunami-ruined air force base at Car Nicobar is barely serviceable but the military is now managing to fly in plane-loads of desperately needed water and food.


1. Indonesia: 94,081

2. Sri Lanka: 28,729

3. India (inc Andaman and Nicobar Is): 9,451

4. Thailand: 4,993

5. Somalia: 142

6. Burma: 53

7. Maldives: 74

8. Malaysia: 67

9. Tanzania: 10

10. Seychelles: 1

11. Bangladesh: 2

12. Kenya: 1

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Denmark mourns its tsunami dead

Denmark has held a national day of mourning for victims of the Asian tsunami disaster a week ago.

Shoppers and workers stopped to observe a two-minute silence.

Thousands of Europeans caught in the disaster are still missing, and some countries may have suffered their worst death toll in modern peacetime.

Nordic countries have been worst hit in Europe. Nearly 100 Danes are dead or missing - and 3,000 other Scandinavians are either killed or unaccounted for.

There was better news for some of the countries on Sunday, as figures for the number of missing were revised downwards.

More than 500 Swedes were taken off the missing list, and more than 200 Danes.

Dead brought home

Flags in Denmark flew at half-mast on Sunday, and the prime minister and royal family attended a memorial ceremony.

"It is like a long nightmare from which one cannot wake up," Bishop Erik Normann Svendsen said during the 45-minute service at Our Lady's Peace cathedral in Copenhagen.

Sweden, Finland and Norway held a day of mourning for tsunami victims on Saturday.

Flights have been bringing dead victims and their friends and relatives home from the disaster area.

But the press took heart from the story of a Swedish mother, who had been pictured in the world's newspapers running into the approaching tsunami in Thailand trying to save her children.

Her fate was unknown until this weekend, when it was revealed that both she and her children had survived.

Thai authorities say at least 2,400 foreign tourists were killed on the country's beaches.

Only about 350 were officially confirmed dead by their home countries as of Sunday, though the number still unaccounted for was over 7,000.

Most of those are Europeans.


Sweden: 52 dead, 2,915 missing

Norway: 21 dead, 400+ missing

Finland: 5 dead, 186 missing

Denmark: 7 dead, 91 missing

Iceland: 11 missing

Source: Confirmed figures, 2 January

Story from BBC NEWS:


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India 'delivers aid to islands'

The Indian army says planes have dropped food and water to tsunami survivors on all the inhabited islands in the Andaman and Nicobar chain.

There was criticism that aid has been slow to reach survivors, thousands of whom may be sheltering on high ground.

Outbreaks of disease have been reported on remote southern islands and doctors have been rushed there, officials said.

More than 9,000 people are known to have died in India, 812 of them on the islands, with thousands more missing.

More than 50 people in the devastated Lakhsmi Nagar area close to Campbell Bay in the Nicobars are now suffering from the potentially fatal diseases of malaria or diarrhoea, the islands' chief administrator Ram Kapse said on Sunday.

He said medical teams were being deployed in affected areas, but the BBC's Subir Bhaumik in the capital, Port Blair, says Mr Kapse has so far denied permission for international agencies to send their own staff.

Our correspondent adds that aid workers have been worried about possible outbreaks of water-borne diseases because the tsunami polluted wells and other sources of drinking water.

Difficult conditions

Earlier on Sunday, the military commander in charge of the relief effort said the most remote locations had now been reached.

This is the biggest relief effort in the history of India," home ministry junior minister Sri Prakash Jaiswal said from Port Blair, the Associated Press news agency reported.

"We are reaching everywhere with aid. I still have hopes that there will be survivors among the missing people," he added.

More than 3,000 people were evacuated to the mainland and relief camps in the capital on Friday.

They said the situation was desperate in some areas.

"There is nothing to eat there. There is no water. In a couple of days, people will start dying of hunger," said Anup Ghatak, an evacuee from Campbell Bay on the southern tip of the chain, quoted by AP news agency.

Relief efforts in the archipelago's 38 inhabited islands have been hampered by the destruction of most of the islands' jetties.

The island chain, close to the epicentre of last Sunday's earthquake, has also felt a number of aftershocks.

More than 5,400 people are still thought to be missing on the islands, but the local police chief has said he believes most of the missing are probably dead.

Some, including many tribal people in remote areas, may be alive in jungles.

Orphanages planned

In Tamil Nadu - the worst hit state on the Indian mainland - the arrival of bodies at main hospitals has begun to slow down.

Many refugees are now looking forward, saying they want to get back to a more normal life, a week after the waves smashed into the coast, destroying lives and livelihoods.

Initial aid packages of rice, kerosene, cooking utensils and some money are being distributed, though the BBC's Sampath Kumar reports that some fishermen say they would rather have nets and boats so they could begin to take care of themselves.

A naval vessel docked at Nagapattinam bringing doctors, nurses and large amounts of medicine to the devastated area.

The state's Chief Minister Jayalalitha says free textbooks and uniforms will be distributed to affected children.

The government also announced that the children of the dead would be adopted by the state and orphanages for up to 100 children would be set up in three towns.

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Stadium 'to stage tsunami gig'

Cardiff's Millennium Stadium is trying to stage a 'Live Aid' style concert to raise more than £1m for the Asian tsunami disaster appeal.

Stadium bosses are in talks with some of the UK's top performers to mount the charity gig on 22 January.

They believe the event to aid the victims of the tsunami disaster on Boxing Day could raise more than £1m.

They are hoping to get the support of the Welsh assembly government for the "event of international proportions".

But they are working against a tight deadline to get the massive charity gig organised in under three weeks.

"It's going to be tight," said stadium manager Paul Sergeant, adding a team of people from the stadium was working over the bank holiday to try to get the concert plan off the ground.

"The pitch comes back into the stadium on the 24th [of January]. We won't be able to stage anything after that until the summer.

As well as a sporting icon, the stadium right in the centre of Cardiff has fast become a top venue for bands in its short history.

Wales' own Stereophonics and Manic Street Preachers are among the giants to have played there.

Talks were going on with "A list acts" including some from Wales to support the concert, said Mr Sergeant, although he refused to name possible acts.

"We would like to do something to help the disaster effort because we have got in Wales the biggest indoor venue in Europe.

"The public response to the disaster has been incredible and we would very much like to put our weight behind those efforts and raise another £1m or more.

All it needed was two or three acts to sign up and the "whole thing would snowball," added Mr Sergeant, who had experience of mounting two similar charity concerts when he was manager at Wembley stadium.

Welsh Rugby Union group chief executive David Moffett had also become involved in the talks to stage the concert.

First Minister Rhodri Morgan has already given his backing to a Welsh "Band Aid" concert to raise money for the victims of the Asian tsunami disaster.

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Mike German proposed the concert, saying that with the talent in Wales, it should be easy to build a programme "with great audience pulling power".

Mr Sergeant said he would be "picking up the phone to the National Assembly to see what they can bring to the party".

He said he would also be delighted to hear from any other potential corporate partners for the charity event.

"What happened on Boxing Day in south east Asia is the biggest natural disaster anyone in the world today has ever seen," said Mr Sergeant.

"If we can get everything together this month then the people of Wales will get the chance to make a major contribution to helping the people whose lives have been so devastated."

Another organisation just set up, Tsunami Relief Cymru, is also hoping to hold a concert for the relief effort at the Millennium Stadium in June.

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Actually Japan is now considered the most generous...

well not really because the US still does donate quite a bit more elsewhere (the tsunami isn't the only place aid should be going)

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Actually Japan is now considered the most generous...

well not really because the US still does donate quite a bit more elsewhere (the tsunami isn't the only place aid should be going)


Does it really matter which country is donating the most? The most important issue we should be concerned with is how WE as individuals can contribute to those in need. Even if we donate as little as 50 cents each person, it will make a huge difference to the tsunami victims (and even elsewhere as you name it).

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Expert: I tried to warn of tsunami

Monday, January 3, 2005 Posted: 6:33 AM EST (1133 GMT)

PHUKET, Thailand (Reuters) -- A Thai expert says he tried to warn the government a deadly tsunami might be sweeping towards tourist-packed beaches, but couldn't find anyone to take his calls.

Samith Dhammasaroj said Monday he was sure a tsunami was coming as soon as he heard about the massive Dec. 26 earthquake off Indonesia's Sumatra island that measured magnitude 9.0 -- the world's biggest in 40 years.

"I tried to call the director-general of the meteorological office, but his phone was always busy," Samith said as he described his desperate attempts to generate an alert which might have saved thousands of lives.

"I tried to phone the office, but it was a Sunday and no-one was there," said the former chief of the meteorological department now charged with setting up an early warning disaster system for Thailand.

"I knew that one day we would have this type of tsunami. I warned that there would be a big disaster," he told reporters.

"Everyone laughed at me and said I was a bad guy who wanted to ruin the tourist industry," he added.

The tsunami took just 75 minutes to hit the beaches and islands of Thailand's Andaman Sea coast, 600 km (375 miles) from the earthquake's epicenter.

Now more than 5,100 people are dead, nearly half of them foreign tourists who abandoned Europe's cold, dark winter for golden sands and turquoise seas, and left 3,800 missing, nearly 1,700 of them foreigners.

Downstairs from where he spoke, dozens of foreigners were still scanning message boards, trying to match grisly photos of bloated, battered bodies to the smiling pictures of missing friends and relatives.

"I feel very sorry for the people who died," Samith said. "I will make sure this thing does not happen again."

The early warning system for Thailand -- which has not had a natural disaster in living memory worse than floods during the annual monsoon -- would be ready in six months, Samith promised.

"We will make the system very efficient," he said.

Roaring sea

Preliminary investigations by a team of six Japanese experts showed that the wall of water hit beaches along the Thai coast at different speeds and heights, with the phenomenon exacerbated by a high tide that fed the tsunami as it neared land.

Khao Lak beach, lined with hotels and resorts especially popular among Scandinavians and Germans just north of Phuket, took the worst hit from waves up to 10.5 meters (34 ft) high.

They roared up Khao Lak's gently sloping beach at speeds of up to 8 meters a second (29 kilometers an hour), said Professor Hideo Matsutomi, who led the Japanese team.

"There have been six major tsunami in this region since 1797, but I think this last tsunami was the biggest," he said.

Tsunami are much more frequent in the Pacific Ocean and countries there have long established an early warning system to protect them from disaster.

Samith said countries in the Indian Ocean had to follow suit and set up a network of underwater sea monitors which might cost as little as $20 million to build.

Warnings of imminent inundations would be sent out automatically on television and radio and by text messages to mobile phones.

The system would help woo back tourists scared away by the mass loss of life, Samith said.

"No-one can predict an earthquake, but you can predict a tsunami," he said. "We will build a good system."

"We will help tourists come back to Thailand."

Source: CNN.com

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Australia has pushed it's aid up to $500,000,000.

Not counting the $80,000,000 the people have donated.

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US vows support for disaster zone

The United States has renewed its promise to help survivors of the Indian Ocean tsunami as aid workers uncover the full scale of the devastation.

Arriving in Indonesia, Secretary of State Colin Powell said humanitarian relief was part of "American values" and he linked it to fighting terrorism.

US helicopters are deployed in Sri Lanka and Indonesia, where the tsunami claimed most of its 140,000 victims.

The United Nations has appealed for more cargo planes and other transport.

The UN relief agency called for C-17 transport aircraft which, it says, only the US and UK can supply.

It said it also needed helicopters and ships to carry them as well as disembarkation vessels, air traffic control equipment, electricity generators and water purification equipment.

The US has already deployed two naval battle groups equipped with 45 helicopters, one to Indonesia and the other to Sri Lanka, as well as some 13,000 military personnel.

Other Nato states are also sending transport aircraft and ships to the disaster zones, including a French helicopter carrier and a German navy supply ship.

Meanwhile, unidentified bodies of European origin in Thailand are going to be taken to China for DNA-testing, the BBC's Gavin Hewitt reports from Phuket.

Valuable investment

Head of the US Pacific Command, Admiral Thomas Fargo, said the number of helicopters deployed by the US military could double as more are brought in aboard other ships.

The 1,000-bed hospital ship, Mercy, based in San Diego, is also undergoing sea trials in case it is needed for deployment, he told a news conference.

"Many American taxpayers made an investment in a very solid and robust military capability that has a wide range of uses and we're demonstrating the value of that investment today," he said.

US officials point out that demonstrating the value of their military forces is not their reason for getting involved in the relief effort, says the BBC's Nick Childs at the Pentagon.

But there is little disguising their hope that images of US military personnel helping in places devastated by the tsunami and earthquake will boost the country's image worldwide.

'Chance for generosity'

Mr Powell arrived in Indonesia, the world's most populous Islamic country, with a message to Muslims worldwide.

Muslims, along with the rest of the world, had "an opportunity to see American generosity, American values in action", he said in Jakarta.

"And I hope as a result of our efforts, as a result of our helicopter pilots being seen by the citizens of Indonesia helping them, that value system of ours will be reinforced."

The US secretary of state added that US relief work should also "dry up pools of dissatisfaction which might give rise to terrorist activity".

The US government has pledged $350m in aid as well as its military assets, and two former presidents, George Bush Senior and Bill Clinton, are heading a private appeal to US citizens for donations.

. Indonesia: 94,081

2. Sri Lanka: 30,196

3. India (inc Andaman and Nicobar Is): 9,479

4. Thailand: 5,246

5. Somalia: 150

6. Burma: 59

7. Maldives: 74

8. Malaysia: 68

9. Tanzania: 10

10. Seychelles: 1

11. Bangladesh: 2

12. Kenya: 1

Story from BBC NEWS:


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Swedish tsunami dead flown home

The first coffins with dead Swedish tourists are being flown back to the capital, Stockholm, from Thailand following the Asian tsunami disaster.

The six coffins draped in Swedish flags were loaded onto a military transport plane in Phuket early on Tuesday.

Fifty-two Swedish tourists have been confirmed dead, but still 827 are confirmed missing.

In modern times Sweden has not experienced a national tragedy on such a scale involving its citizens abroad.

Thousands of Europeans are still missing, more than a week after the tsunami disaster.

The BBC's Gavin Hewitt in Phuket says unidentified bodies of European origin are to be taken to China for DNA tests.

More than a dozen planes have brought injured Scandinavians back home from Thailand.

Swedish Prime Minister Goeran Persson has said more than 1,000 Swedes may have died in the catastrophe.

A short ceremony will be held with relatives when the first six coffins arrive early on Wednesday.

EU mark of respect

The European Union has called on its 25 member states to observe three minutes' silence at 1100 GMT on Wednesday to remember the tsunami victims.

Flags on EU buildings will fly at half-mast and European market traders are also expected to pay their respects.

Efforts to track down the missing and check bodies in Thailand are continuing. But officials say identifying the dead could take months, as many are unrecognisable and forensic teams are relying on dental records and DNA tests.

The Swedish government has been sharply criticised at home for its handling of the tragedy, with many Swedes accusing it of responding too slowly.

The Thai tourist resorts hit hardest by the tsunamis, such as Phuket and Khao Lak, were popular destinations for thousands of Scandinavians and other North Europeans escaping the winter cold.

Sweden has not experienced such a catastrophe since the ferry Estonia sank in the Baltic Sea in 1994, killing 892 people, including 551 Swedes.

In neighbouring Norway, Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik on Tuesday expressed regret for having grossly overestimated the number of Norwegian tsunami victims.

At the weekend he suggested it could exceed 1,000, but the death toll has dropped to 16, with 91 missing.


Germany - 60 dead, 1,000 missing

Sweden - 52 dead, 2,322 missing or unaccounted for

UK - 40 dead, 159 unaccounted for

Switzerland - 23 dead, 105 missing

France - 22 dead, 100 missing

Norway - 16 dead, 91 missing

Austria - 10 dead, 443 missing

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Brown pushes tsunami debt relief

The foreign debts owed by countries hit by the Asian tsunami disaster could be frozen, under a proposal being pushed by UK Chancellor Gordon Brown.

He has been in "intensive talks" with other finance ministers from the wealthy G8 countries on a moratorium on debt repayments by affected countries.

Germany proposed a freeze last week and Canada has begun its own moratorium.

As UK deaths reached 41, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said he would visit Thailand and Indonesia this week.

A spokeswoman could not say whether the latest British confirmed fatality had been among the other 159 Britons already feared dead.

The Boxing Day disaster is now known to have killed at least 140,000 people.

Downing Street confirmed there would be a three-minute silence in memory of the victims at 1200 GMT on Wednesday.

It also emerged that the British public has now pledged £76m in aid.

The UK Government has promised £50m to the relief effort and says it is likely to exceed public donations.

Aid delivery

Prime Minister Tony Blair, back from his Christmas holiday, chaired the government's south-east Asia emergency committee for the first time on Tuesday morning.

Mr Blair's official spokeswoman said: "The task is to turn money into help. It is to ensure aid gets to the people who need it."

During his trip, Mr Straw will represent the G8 at the international conference called in Jakarta, Indonesia on Thursday.

"We will be looking at longer-term issues of reconstruction and support for the populations and governments, as well as the immediate issues of aid to those people stricken by this disaster," said Mr Straw.

On Friday, he will visit the Thai beach resort of Phuket, where British families are still searching for relatives.

International Development Secretary Hilary Benn will also visit Aceh in Indonesia, as well as Sri Lanka.

Emergency assistance

Mr Brown hopes a debt freeze, which would save affected nations billions a year, could be agreed internationally within days.

He told BBC News: "What we are suggesting is an immediate moratorium on debt repayments from the afflicted countries.

"That would then lead to an analysis of the debt needs of these countries, with the possibility of some write-off of debt."

The chancellor said the plan would initially save the most affected countries about $3bn (£1.58bn) in repayments.

The proposal was being backed by the US, and discussions were under way with various other countries including France, Germany, Italy and Japan.

Mr Brown said the changes to debt relief, combined with aid loans and grants, would make planning the reconstruction efforts possible.

Africa worries

The chancellor sees little point in Western governments seeking to provide emergency financial aid, only to claw the money back through debt repayments.

He said Africa should not lose out because of resources being diverted to the tsunami victims.

Oxfam's Phil Bloomer welcomed the moratorium plan, saying it would be "unforgivable" to continue to demand debt repayments.

He said it was vital the money saved was ring-fenced so it reached those most in need.

Tory leader Michael Howard also backed the proposals but said ministers had been "playing catch-up" with public donations.

'More to do'

Scottish National Party MP Angus Robertson said he was pleased Mr Brown was backing the German debt moratorium idea "after a week's delay".

"The next move has to be debt cancellation and the UK Government needs to do a lot more in terms of financial aid having been significantly eclipsed by the generosity of people at home and governments abroad," he added.

Emergency supplies from the British government have started arriving in the region on three RAF flights in a joint operation with Scandinavian countries.

Two ships - the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Diligence and frigate HMS Chatham - are arrived in the disaster area. A second Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel, the Bayleaf, is also being sent.

UK charities have also begun chartering planes to deliver aid.

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Rain hampers Sri Lanka relief bid

Heavy rain and flooding are seriously hampering the tsunami relief operation in eastern Sri Lanka.

In Amparai district alone some 200,000 people were made homeless by the waves the 26 December earthquake unleashed.

Diarrhoea is rife in some refugee camps which lack basic sanitation. There are fears disease may spread as rain falls.

Meanwhile, aid agencies in a rebel-held northern district badly hit by the tsunami say they have received only one relief load from central government.

Tamil Tiger rebels who control the Mullaitivu area say 4,500 people are dead or missing, and 25,000 displaced. Yet they say they have only received one truck load of relief aid from Colombo.

In the south, US marines have arrived in the town of Galle to help those affected by the disaster, which killed at least 30,000 in Sri Lanka.

Air drops

The BBC's Dumeetha Luthra in Kalmunai - in the eastern district of Amparai - says that families who returned to their homes to try and clean up found that once again they were swamped with water.

In Kalmunai alone there are almost 30 refugee camps, with people sheltering in schools and community centres with only basic facilities.

Our correspondent says that in some camps there is only one toilet for thousands of people.

The aid agencies are trying to build temporary latrines, but say as soon as a hole is dug, rainwater fills it up.

"On a day like this, when it is raining steadily, it becomes difficult to attend to the patients," Japanese doctor Shoichi Nakano told the AFP news agency.

Helicopters of the Sri Lanka air force have dropped hundreds of sacks of potatoes, rice, onions, sugar and crates of bottled water to those affected.

Pilots say they have dropped 24 tonnes of food a day in Amparai district over the last five days, in addition to taking sick and injured people inland for treatment.

"We have not stopped a single day despite the heavy rains, as the task is too huge," Wing Commander Aravindo Mirando said.

Cholera symptoms

Meanwhile disease is already spreading through some camps.

One doctor told the BBC that he had seen the symptoms of cholera but did not yet have the facilities in the camps to test patients.

Our correspondent says that mosquito-related illnesses such as malaria and dengue fever are developing because there is so much stagnant water.

She says the situation is unlikely to improve as it is now the monsoon season in the east of the country.

Meanwhile, the UN says that it has found about 4,000 people in an eastern village who had been cut off from outside help since the tsunami battered the area eight days ago.

Officials say that villagers have been without shelter or access to clean drinking water or regular food supplies.

A United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) official says that he reached the village on Monday, and was the first outsider to get there since the tsunami washed away a bridge.

"As far as we know, it's the only village in the area where people are sleeping in the open and which has not received any organized aid," UNHCR spokeswoman Vivian Tan told AFP.

An advance party of American marines is in Sri Lanka as part of a humanitarian mission to help survivors of the disaster.

They are assessing what needs to be done before beginning delivering emergency supplies to tens of thousands of people in Galle district. A further 1,500 marines are expected to follow within days.

On Monday experts estimated that more than a million fishermen in Sri Lanka's north-east may have lost their livelihoods in the tsunami.

About 80% of fishing boats there are believed destroyed and many fishermen are also too scared to go to sea.

Around one million Sri Lankans are estimated to have been displaced by the tsunami.

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Direct aid to stricken islanders

Officials in India's Andaman and Nicobar islands have begun taking aid directly to victims of last week's tsunami, rather than evacuating them.

The authorities hope the move will help stop people fleeing the area, which suffered more aftershocks on Tuesday.

Earlier, an Indian helicopter dropping food and water over the remote islands was attacked by tribesmen using arrows.

More than 6,000 islanders are confirmed as dead or missing but at least 10,000 others remain unaccounted for.

Some remote communities remain cut off and many jetties have been washed away, making landings hazardous.


"There has been a change in strategy. Aid will be taken to their homes," an Indian relief official told the Associated Press news agency.

Until Tuesday the authorities had been ferrying thousands of people affected by the disaster either to camps in the capital, Port Blair, or to the Indian mainland.

That policy was criticised by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and aid agencies, who also demanded that the Indian government let them join the relief effort there.

Much of the Andamans is off-limits to foreigners because of security concerns and the desire to protect aboriginal tribes from outside influences.

The BBC's Subir Bhaumik in Port Blair says that the authorities have not so far given any indication that they will lift their ban on international aid groups from operating outside the capital.

'Scared children'

Correspondents say that the deluge of victims flooding into Port Blair has turned most of the city's schools into refugee camps, exposing survivors to an urban world that many have never seen.

"The children are all scared. Often they imagine there are tremors and run out the building in the night. We are trying to put them at ease with sports like football and cricket," Sushil Singh, principal of a Port Blair high school, told the Associated press.

Meanwhile there have been more aftershocks on the islands, reaching up to six on the Richter scale.

There were scenes of panic in Port Blair as the tremors hit.

But correspondents say that conditions across the islands are gradually improving.

Relief camps are being built, telephones re-connected and jetties smashed by the waves are being re-constructed.

Officials say that they hope that the small runway on the remote island of Car Nicobar will be operational again in two weeks time.

But they say that ships which provide important transport and cargo links to the islands will take far longer to repair.

In all, two ships and five passenger ferries were destroyed.

"These ships are the lifeline of the island, but my entire dockyard is washed out," Samir Kohli, Deputy Director of shipping services, told The Associated Press.

Helicopter attacked

Some 400,000 people live on the Andamans archipelago, which comprises more than 300 islands and islets and some 200 rocky outcrops.

In addition the islands are home to a number of tribes whose way of life has not changed since the iron age.

Foreigners are not allowed access to the areas where they live.

On Tuesday, an Indian helicopter dropping food and water over remote islands was attacked by tribesmen using bows and arrows.

The crew were not hurt, and the authorities were taking it as a sign that tribes had not been wiped out by the earthquake and sea surges as many had feared.

But outbreaks of disease have been reported on remote southern islands, with concerns that the tsunami has polluted wells and other sources of drinking water.

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Guru pledges $23m tsunami relief

One of India's most famous women gurus has pledged a billion rupees ($23m) to help survivors of the Asian tsunami.

Mata Amritanandamayi, also known as Amma or Mother, says the money will be used to rebuild homes destroyed in the disaster.

Her charitable trust says each new house will consist of two rooms, a kitchen, a small veranda and a toilet.

The news came as India's government said the disaster had left at least 9,571 dead and 5,914 missing.

Temporary shelters

"Amma is moved and anguished by the colossal tragedy," a spokeswoman for her trust told the Associated Press news agency.

The trust's website says that as thousands of people in southern India have been made homeless, work has already begun on building temporary shelters to house some of them until the new homes are completed.

It says that it is allocating $23 (1,000 rupees) to each family in the Amritapuri area who had a home that was destroyed.

Correspondents say that the money pledged is higher than the amount promised by many international aid groups and business leaders.

The trust owns 10 acres of land where the temporary homes will be built, and says its relief work will not in any way interfere with the government's efforts.

It has also announced that free education and counselling will be provided to those children who have lost both parents in the tragedy.

Mata Amritanandamayi is best known for hugging people as a form of blessing and therapy.

She is estimated to have to have hugged at least 21 million people in the past 30 years.

Her trust - which provides homes, schools and medical care - operates in 15 countries including Canada, France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom.

The international community has so far pledged more than two billion dollars in disaster aid, but the UN has warned that some nations and donors may not honour their promises.

"At the end of the day we will not receive all of it," UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Monday.

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Were are the rest of the rich b*stards with their cash?

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wow... My school is gonna have tons of fundraisers for it. I'm going to Korea soon and need to save my money for that but... this is a much more important reason.

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Scotland's aid effort nudges £10m

People in Scotland are on course to raise £10m for the tsunami aid effort in south east Asia.

The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) said £9m had been raised through internet and telephone pledges since its appeal was launched on 28 December.

Mhairi Owens, of the DEC, said it is the biggest public response it has received since being formed in 1963.

Meanwhile, Nationalists have identified how Scotland's fishing industry can help the victims of the disaster.

Forty tons of water donated by Scottish companies have been flown to the Maldives.

Ms Owens said the DEC had been overwhelmed by the public response to its aid appeal.

"We believe that a £10m contribution from the Scottish public is easily achievable if donations keep coming in as they are," she said.

"Immediate needs of clean water, food, medicines and clothes for survivors are being delivered by DEC agencies across the affected countries but we really need the continuing support of the public for this huge response.

"This has been like nothing we have seen before. The public in Scotland instantly recognised that this catastrophe was going to require an extraordinary effort."

Fishing help

However, the DEC has urged the public not to become complacent over the level of aid required.

It is asking the public to keep donating from every source, including online, via telephone, by text, or at high street banks or post offices.

The DEC appeal has raised £76m across the UK, and is expected to reach £100m.

It comes as one survivor, Ken Taylor, from Glasgow, has told how he escaped the disaster because he was late getting to the beach in the Thai resort of Phuket.

Mr Taylor said: "If I had been on that beach, being a non-swimmer, and going to an area of the beach where there was no easy escape route, I could have been in serious trouble.

"So we thank our lucky stars that we were in the right place at the right time."

Meanwhile, the Scottish National Party used a media conference in Aberdeen to launch an appeal for the fishing industry to lend its support to the stricken Asian communities.

SNP fisheries spokesman Richard Lochhead said Scotland has the opportunity to make "a unique contribution to the international aid effort".

He said it could help replace lost and broken equipment as well as offering advice and training.

"Being a key fisheries nation, we should be able to offer advice, assistance and perhaps equipment to those scores of fishing communities that have been shattered on the coast of the Indian Ocean," he said.

"Having spoken to representatives from all sectors of the fishing industry, I know they are keen to get together with the government and aid agencies to see what can be done.

"It may even be possible to secure fishing boats that could be donated.

"Scotland is ideally placed to assist with the long-term reconstruction of fishing communities in Asia wrecked by the tsunami."

The Scottish Executive said it would welcome the nation's fishing and other communities helping those affected by the disaster.

A spokeswoman said: "The executive plans to meet with NGOs in Scotland shortly to discuss the long-term support that could be provided by organisations and communities, including the fishing community, across Scotland."

Donations can be made to the DEC through its website or by phoning 0870 606 0900.

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For a tiny country of 5 million thats not that bad. Far more per head than some countries much larger than us have done. I think its £20 million over all after the government's donation is also added.

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I notice all of them own a billion up. God and the richest scum like Bill Gates siting their with 43 billion. He could fund this himself the evil b*stard. What the hell do they do with money like that other than let others starve?

Its funny how its often those who have the least that give the most.

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