Aid Begins to Reach Isolated Areas Hit by Quake


Ron Corben

A week after southern Asia was hit by a massive earthquake and tsunami wave, aid and assistance is making it through to communities battered by the disaster. The death toll continues to climb and has topped 120,000. Governments now are making plans for long-term aid and recovery work.

Rain is adding to the misery of the homeless and is hampering relief efforts in parts of Sri Lanka and Indonesia that were hit hardest by the quake and waves a week ago.

The backlog of aid at airports is beginning to reach some of the most isolated areas. U.S. Navy helicopters are dropping supplies to villages in Indonesia's Aceh Province that have been cut off from roads and aid is arriving on India's isolated Andaman Islands.

The United Nations believes more than one million people in Indonesia and more than 700,000 in Sri Lanka will require emergency food assistance for months.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono made a fresh plea for aid to the battered region.

"I appeal to the world community to share, to contribute to reconstruct Indonesia," he said.

The overall death toll in 11 countries could top 150,000, and an estimated five million people have been left homeless. Governments are warning there is little hope that any of the thousands of missing people across the region will be found alive.

Survivors in Aceh were seen huddling in clearings with no food or shelter. In the provincial capital Banda Aceh, bodies were still being found as the flood waters drain away.

U.N. Childrens' Fund spokeswoman, Shantha Bloemen, says fresh water and food are urgently required to prevent waterborne diseases claiming more lives.

"Now when they are faced with this crisis, we know that they are lacking safe water. When we know that they have got hardly anything to eat, they are going to be most at risk," she said.

Michael Diamond, a regional director for the aid organization Plan International, spent three days in Sri Lanka assessing the devastation. He says the reconstruction will take years.

"We would have to help in rebuilding, reconstructing - not just physically the villages, the communities, but in trauma counseling and just helping people to cope with the fact that they have survived and that many of their relatives and friends are gone," said Mr. Diamond.

Secretary of State Colin Powell and Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer are to arrive in the region Monday to assess the recovery efforts and damage before attending a summit on aid Thursday in Jakarta.

The disaster has led to a global outpouring of aid, with more than $2 billion pledged by governments and millions more being donated by private citizens.

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