Asia Struggles to Cope With Tsunami Aftermath

Around the Indian Ocean, assistance is starting to arrive for the millions of people whose lives were shattered by Sunday's huge earthquake and the tsunamis it spawned. More than 25,000 people are confirmed dead, but more bodies are being found all the time and that death toll could double.

Three days after the earthquake, the numbers continue to rise inexorably - tens of thousands dead, hundreds of thousands displaced, millions of lives shattered.

Rescuers continue to recover bodies in many of the 11 countries hit by the tidal waves caused by Sunday's magnitude 9.0 quake in the Indian Ocean.

Indonesia's Vice President Jusuf Kalla says that the death toll may rise to 25,000 people in Indonesia alone. Many parts of northern Sumatra Island, the closest landmass to the quake's epicenter, have yet to be reached by rescuers.

"Certainly the body count in Banda Aceh is very high," said Kevin O'Reilly, who is with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance in Indonesia. "The unknown of course is how seriously the west coast has been affected from Aceh all the way down to north Sumatra, a lot of those areas are out of communications contact and the extent of devastation is still uncertain."

The only contact authorities have made so far with Meulaboh, one of the main towns on that stretch of coast, is a desperate S.O.S. message that time is running out. Food was being air dropped in the area Tuesday.

Sri Lanka was also badly hit and is expecting its death to rise to more than 20,000.

In India, smoke was rising from the beaches of the east coast as the bereaved cremated the thousands of remains of their beloved. New Delhi has deployed the Army in what the government says is its largest peacetime mobilization ever. Sonia Gandhi, the leader of the ruling Congress Party, toured the worst affect communities.

"We'll do all [we] can to support the Army in this exercise of rehabilitation of reaching food, water, medicines to those people who are stranded," said Mrs. Gandhi.

In Thailand, near the resort island of Phuket, more than 200 bodies lay in a Buddhist temple Tuesday. More than 60 percent were foreign holidaymakers.

Bangladesh, the Maldives, Malaysia, Burma and even Somalia on the east coast of Africa; all suffered casualties from the massive tsunamis that fanned out from the quake's epicenter - moving as fast as 1,000 kilometers an hour before smashing into costal into towns and villages, leaving devastation in their wake.

Assistance is beginning to reach those most in need. Representatives of the United Nations, governments and aid agencies met Tuesday in the Swiss city of Geneva to try and meld a coordinated response to the tragedy.

The United Nations says that the earthquake is likely to be the world's most expensive natural disaster. In Indonesia alone, aid workers estimate that it will cost almost $25 million to support half a million people for three months. And few people believe that the victims will be able survive on their own even after three months.

For many of the survivors, the danger is not over: they are now being stalked by disease. For aid agencies, the immediate priority is to provide food, shelter and clean water, to stave off illness like cholera and typhoid.

"The medical needs are enormous," said Gloria Chan, who is with the Hong Kong aid office of "Doctors Without Borders." "A lot of victims are in remote and inaccessible areas that need help urgently and immediately and on top of that there is a high risk of epidemic outbreak."

Aid workers fear that unless assistance can be provided quickly, people will continue to die, and will continue to die in large numbers.

This forum has been closed.
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.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs