Accessibility links

Breaking News

Powell Surveys Tsunami Devastation in Indonesia's Aceh Province

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has visited the tsunami-wrecked region of Indonesia's Aceh Province Wednesday pledging to help the devastated area.

A visibly moved Colin Powell said after flying over Banda Aceh Wednesday that he has a much better understanding of the enormous amount of damage the December 26 tsunami did to Aceh - located at the northern tip of Indonesia's Sumatra Island.

Mr. Powell says he has never seen anything to compare with this damage.

"With respect to what I've seen in the course of my career, I've been in war and I've been in a number of hurricanes, tornadoes and other relief operations but I have never seen anything like this," he said.

The massive tsunami, triggered by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake, killed up to a 150,000 people in a dozen Indian Ocean countries - with two thirds of those killed in Aceh.

An unprecedented international relief response is now underway with the United States pledging to contribute $350 million of the more than $2 billion in official aid.

Washington has committed more than 13,000 troops and 14 ships to deliver supplies, power, fresh water, medical and engineering help. The U.S. Secretary says the United States will increase the number of helicopters flying relief missions to areas impossible to reach because roads and bridges and most infrastructures have been wiped out by the tsunami.

"We will be increasing the number of helicopters that will be available to support our TNI [Indonesian military] and Indonesian authorities and we will respond to requests we get from the Indonesian authorities for shelter materials and food," said Mr. Powell.

Officials estimate there are at least 400,000 homeless in Aceh, and most are living in makeshift refugee camps along the washed out roads, in the forests, or anywhere they can find a spot of land.

The United States has embarked on a major aid effort in close cooperation with the Indonesian government. This is a major change as the United States had suspended many forms of military cooperation since 1992 due to concerns over human rights abuses by the Indonesian Armed Forces.

Mr. Powell will attend a one-day international disaster summit in Jakarta on Thursday - before continuing his tour of the countries most affected by the tsunami.