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Lhoknga, Indonesia Struggles Without Enough Help


It's been more than three weeks since an earthquake in the Indian Ocean triggered a massive tsunami off the coast of the northern Indonesian province of Aceh. International Red Cross workers continue to travel to remote villages to deliver aid and save lives.

VOA's Nancy-Amelia Collins has been reporting from Indonesia since the disaster, talking to survivors and relief officials. The interviews she conducted and the video she shot are included in this report narrated by Kathie Scarrah.


Lhoknga, Indonesia, 17 kilometers west of the provincial capital of Banda Aceh was a busy beach district before December 26th. 25,000 people lived here. Officials say only about 7,000 live here now.

This family has just unearthed the body of their father. Before he is buried, they place his favorite slippers next to him. Another woman volunteers to bag bodies while she searches for her family. She lost her husband and three children.

"I'm really sad, the bodies are everywhere, but I can't find my family," said another survivor.

Refugees from remote villages walked for days before arriving in Lhoknga where they are given fresh water, what food is available and sometimes, body bags.

The smell of death is in the air, and destruction is everywhere you look.

Dr. Hanifa Ali is an International Red Cross volunteer. "I am very sad. Sad [for] our people. All of our people are sad. We need help. We have no teacher. We have no doctors, so many people dead here."

Dr. Ali has been a doctor in Aceh province for more than 30 years. He lost many colleagues and at least 20 relatives in the tsunami, but has found comfort treating survivors. "I know it's pretty hard, but I must do it. I must do everything, all the time," he said.

Dr. Ali's small team of Red Cross volunteers travels every day to remote regions of the province looking for people who need aid.

Team members include his daughter, Dr. Hanifa Alia, who just recently graduated from medical school. She said she feels compelled to help but it hasn't been easy for her.

That's obvious as she talks about one man's story. "He lost his brother, his mother, until now he cannot speak. He's going into very, very shock, until now."

The elder Dr. Hanifa says international aid is still slow in reaching the refugees. At this camp, survivors from four villages await help from the outside world. This woman lost her entire family: five children, 16 grandchildren, her husband and other relatives. She managed to make her way to camp, but grief consumed her.

Dr. Hanifa says her story is typical of the guilt survivors feel. "They stay in the camp only. Maybe some of them cry, but some of them cannot speak. They're confused."

He says it will take months to reach and treat all survivors. But despite the difficulties, he and his team members know they must stay and help.

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