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Many Tsunami Disaster Zones Wait for Relief Supplies


Six days after the catastrophic Tsunami struck countries in the Indian Ocean basin, relief agencies are struggling to deliver food, water and medicine.

Ships and planes are converging on the stricken coasts of south Asia. Five million people are said to be homeless in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand. An aid coordinator in Jakarta says distribution continues to be a problem as tons of food and other supplies pile up at airports awaiting distribution. There aren't enough workers or vehicles to get to the stricken areas.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell discussed the crisis Friday in New York with United Nations Secretary General Kofi Anan.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell
"This is the sixth day of this crisis and a lot has happened over these six days,” he said. “We have dispatched assessment teams. Humanitarian supplies are on the way. Military forces are on the way-a particularly large contingent from the United States armed forces, and fund raising has started and significant funds are being allocated to this effort."

The United States says it is prepared to increase its assistance ten fold to $350 million. Mr. Powell appealed to people around the world to reach deep into their pockets to provide help for this unprecedented disaster.

"The need is great and not just for immediate relief but for long-term reconstruction, rehabilitation, cash donations, and economic support that is going to be needed for these countries to get back up on their feet," he added.

The United Nations has the lead role in directing the aid effort. The World Bank, which usually lends money for economic development, plans to allocate $250 million for aid and reconstruction. Damien Milverton says most of that money will arrive later when governments are able to identify their longer-term needs. For now, says Mr. Milverton, the priority is to get immediate relief to those in need.

"We want to make sure it is a coordinated approach so it eases the burden on the governments,” Mr. Milverton said. “So we will get together with the Asian Development Bank and also the Japanese bilateral agency. And we will head in there as a group rather than uncoordinated teams that often confuses and overwhelms the situation."

Indonesia's Aceh province is the single worst hit area, with more than 80,000 casualties. U.N. relief coordinator Jan Egeland says the death toll is approaching 150,000. But he stressed the world may never know how many people were actually killed.

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