News

UN Says Cost of Tsunami Disaster Without Precedent

The U.N. emergency relief agency is struggling to respond to a natural disaster that has brought death and destruction to at least eight countries. Senior officials estimate this could be the costliest disaster in history.

As he briefed reporters Monday, an obviously worried U.N. Undersecretary General Jan Egeland said it is far too early to determine the scope of the devastation.

"The figures we have now are so wrong that in many ways it may be wrong to really present them," Mr. Egeland says.

Earthquake magnitude in Sumatra, Indonesia
Mr. Egeland, the U.N. emergency relief coordinator, said death and damage tolls are rising by the hour. He expressed concern that in some of the hardest hit areas, particularly in Indonesia, he has still not even heard from U.N. staff.

"There are many communities in Indonesia, which are closest to the epicenter, and therefore the tsunami would be at its biggest, where we haven't even a clue of how many have been affected," Mr. Egeland says. "These are some of the smaller communities in Sumatra. Certainly Bandar Aceh is a very grave concern, and it is not good that I cannot communicate with our people there, of which we have many local staff, not even with satellite phone, which could be an indication that something very bad has happened."

Mr. Egeland said, although the killer wave that hit the south Asian coastline was not the biggest in recorded history, it may have been the most destructive, because several hard-hit countries are among the world's most heavily populated.

He said the eight worst-hit countries, in order of magnitude, were Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, India, Maldives, Malaysia, Burma and Bangladesh.

A massive appeal for aid is to be launched in the next few days. Mr. Egeland expressed concern, however, that several rich donor countries are becoming less generous, even as needs continue to grow.

"We were more generous when we were less rich, many of the rich countries. It is beyond me why we are so stingy," Mr. Egeland says. "Actually foreign assistance for many countries now is 0.1 or 0.2 percent of gross national income, that is stingy."

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell Monday said the United States would give an initial 15 million dollars in relief assistance. In addition, several disaster assessment teams are being sent to determine what else can be done to help victims.

U.N. disaster relief coordinator Jan Egeland said among the happiest developments following the quake and tidal wave has been the response capacity of local relief agencies. He said in places such as Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Malaysia and Thailand, local and national authorities have displayed a "remarkable resilience". He added that, while the international response has been overvalued, the local response has been undervalued.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs