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UN Secretary-General Visits Indonesia's Tsunami-Devastated Aceh Region


The United Nations Secretary-General has visited Indonesia's devastated province of Aceh, where the death toll from the December 26 earthquake and tsunami heads over 100,000.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan toured the city of Banda Aceh on Friday and flew by helicopter to survey the damage brought by the massive earthquake and tsunami that destroyed much of the Aceh province on December 26.

Mr. Annan told reporters he was shocked by the devastation.

"We traveled along the west coast and I must admit I have never seen such destruction, mile after mile, and you wonder, 'where are the people, what happened to them?'," said Kofi Annan.

The U.N. chief says not only will the survivors need financial help from the international community to rebuild their lives, but they also will need psychological treatment to deal with the trauma they have suffered.

In Aceh, many stunned survivors wander the roads, some unable to talk, most unable to comprehend what has happened to them.

Mr. Annan flew to the province a day after attending an international summit in Jakarta on efforts to coordinate aid to the dozen Indian Ocean countries hit by the tsunami.

More than 150,000 people in were killed in the disaster - two thirds of them in Aceh.

The U.N. Secretary-General has urged donor nations to quickly distribute the nearly $4 billion of aid pledges to prevent thousands more deaths from disease.

Aid is pouring into Banda Aceh now, but some relief workers and area residents complain the United Nations was slow in bring help. Mr. Annan said that is not the case, but that it takes time for U.N. members to coordinate such large efforts.

"I think it's unfair to say that we were tardy," he said. "I think we moved as quickly as we can. You also have to understand, the United Nations is as strong as its members."

The United States, Australia, Japan and India in the early days after the disaster led relief efforts, but the United Nations now is charge of coordinating the effort.

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