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    Asia Struggles to Cope With Tsunami Aftermath

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    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.

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