The United Nations has received nearly $200 million cash in response to its appeal for immediate aid to countries hit by the Asian tsunami. Another $550 million in quick cash assistance has been pledged and is said to be on the way. The campaign to raise nearly $1 billion in emergency aid has reached the three-quarters point.
After returning from a trip to the Asian tsunami zone, Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the U.N. General Assembly Tuesday he has never seen anything like the world's response.
"The generosity and support we have seen over the past few weeks have set a new standard for our global community," he said. "It is my hope that we will find a way of capturing this moment…"
Mr. Annan said he would name a special envoy to the tsunami-hit region by the end of the week, as he promised at the recent Jakarta aid donors conference. The envoy's job will be to organize long-term assistance for rebuilding infrastructure in the tsunami zone.
Overall aid pledges, including grants and long-term assistance from 60 countries, are believed to be nearing the $4 billion mark.
The secretary-general launched a flash aid appeal for $977 million at the Jakarta conference. Kevin Kennedy of the U.N. emergency response office says donations have already topped three quarters of the total.
"We've recorded pledges of $739 million, and I can tell you at this point we have $199 million in the bank, that is where the money has been received by the various requesting agencies."
Mr. Kennedy confirmed that the official death toll stands at close to 170,000, 118,000 of them in Indonesia. But he said hundreds of thousands more are still missing.
"We don't know what we'll find when we reach some kind of end of the road on this... Recall that many government officials lost their own lives, so the local capacity to track all this is a bit diminished," he said. "So it could be, at the end of the day, that we could have another 10,000 or 20,000 deaths in Indonesia, and we could have a lot more than that, too."
Mr. Kennedy says teams reaching remote stretches along the west coast of Indonesia's Aceh region are continuing to find devastation on a staggering scale. In one of the last provinces surveyed, 24 of 28 fishing villages were wiped away and 85 percent of the population is believed to have perished.