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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 December 2004, 19:23 GMT
Reporters' log: Asia disaster
As aid efforts get under way in response to the Asian quake disaster, the BBC's correspondents report from affected areas around the region.

Thursday 30 December

Dumeetha Luthra: Galle, Sri Lanka : 1817 GMT

The aid operation is gathering momentum.

There's a steady stream of trucks now arriving in Galle.

Boxes are being unloaded at this distribution centre - clean drinking-water and basic food supplies are a priority.

However, Galle is a major city; its infrastructure is damaged but functioning. Now the challenge is getting to the outlying villages.

Along the coast the full extent of the disaster is still unfolding.

In one village alone there are four refugee camps, each one crammed with around 2,000 people.

There's no sanitation and already there are reports of dysentery.

Geeta Pandey: Andaman Islands : 1720 GMT

People from Hut Bay Town in the Little Andamans islands who were brought to Port Blair on Thursday say scores of bodies are lying around in the forest, some of them half-buried in slush.

They say the government claim that food and water is being airdropped to those still stranded is false.

Officials are trying to convince people to stay back on the islands - they say it's not practical to bring everyone to Port Blair.

But most people at the relief centres say the islands which were their homes until now are no longer inhabitable.

Gina Wilkinson: Galle, Sri Lanka : 1705 GMT

We've seen more aid arriving today compared with previous days. And many individual Sri Lankans have loaded up their cars with food and supplies and headed up to Galle.

They are handing it all out to people they see. It has created a little bit of confusion regarding who is distributing what.

When the tsunamis first hit, the military put a 30,000-strong force on the ground.

They are still looking for survivors but the focus now is increasingly on opening up the vital road links. They say most are now open, though they can be difficult to traverse.

It's happening slowly but aid is now trickling in to where it's needed.

Rachel Harvey: Banda Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia : 1610 GMT

It does feel like hell on earth here. Each new day seems to bring new horror. We keep finding new areas it seems no-one else has reached.

In one street today, not far from the centre, people started to come out of their homes, saying "Where is everyone, we haven't had any help."

People had been trying to pull out the bodies but they're saying they can't do any more and they can't cope on their own.

There are still bodies littered around. There are areas we saw on Tuesday where bodies have been removed, but you walk around the corner and there's more. It never seems to end.

People are getting desperate - fresh drinking water is running out fast and food is in short supply. But we're being told things are far worse in other areas of the province.

Charles Haviland: Nagapattinam, southern India : 1430 GMT

On Thursday there was total panic here. Vehicles travelling into Nagapattinam were met by a surge of humanity and traffic coming the other way, fleeing inland.

The panic was fed by official warnings multiplied by rumours. Home ministry officials had said another tsunami might take place because a new earthquake was being predicted in the Indian Ocean.

Local officials ordered the evacuation of people living along the coastal strip and a helicopter bringing the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on a visit turned back without landing.

There was similar panic all along the coast. As a result, relief and rescue operations including major disinfection campaigns have been interrupted.

Officials in Delhi are now telling people not to panic and earthquake experts are saying new tremors at sea are far weaker than Sunday's quake, but half this town is now believed to be empty and the ranks of the displaced people here have swollen.

Geeta Pandey: Andaman Islands : 1415 GMT

We've had more than 50 aftershocks since 26 December. After the warning today people started to run around, trying to get to higher areas, and there was absolute chaos for two hours on the streets here.

I saw a woman right before my eyes who was so worried, and some children asked us if we would take them to Delhi.

Some said they can no longer live with this uncertainty, and they want to leave the islands forever. I think the damage was done by the initial words of the authorities.

Kylie Morris: Phuket, Thailand : 1310 GMT

At a makeshift morgue there are more than 300 bodies, mainly of foreign tourists. Photos of the dead are posted outside.

The bodies have to be identified quickly as corpses are deteriorating fast. Forensic teams are arriving and volunteers offer counselling for those whose sad search comes to an end.

Nick Bryant: Tamil Nadu, India : 1300 GMT

People began running for their lives when they heard from local officials that another tsunami was about to hit. They were told to retreat over a mile from the incoming waves, but people scrambled anywhere that offered sanctuary.

Women were praying. Some had already lost children in Sunday's disaster, and didn't want others to suffer the same fate.

Word then came through that the government had warned a tsunami was possible, not imminent.

It said it was acting out of an abundance of caution and didn't want to make a mistake.

It did have an immediate affect on the aid effort though, as the area evacuated was the area targeted by the relief effort. And that effort had to come to a halt.

Rachel Harvey: Banda Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia : 1255 GMT

The focus is shifting to the needs of the living, with food sent from villages in the highlands. Local produce donated by local people. It's not much, but it's a start.

The military is managing to get some supplies in. Planes with international aid are waiting for clearance to enter the disaster zone, while on the ground people wait for it to arrive.

Aid will need to be distributed quickly. Part of the problem is the lack of petrol, but even if you had a full tank, how would you manoeuvre a vehicle around here?

The main problems are the sheer delays in getting aid in and the fact that more areas of devastation are being found all the time.

On the south west coast, close to the epicentre, we're told things are even worse. Aid will get to places in a matter of days, but the two stages are getting it to Aceh, and the next is getting it around.

Parts are completely inaccessible, so once the aid is there, the challenge isn't over then.

Andrew Harding: Banda Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia : 1210 GMT

We have spoken to many doctors who have arrived here to help, who are saying more and more injured people are flooding in from places outside the city and their injuries are often very badly infected.

We saw a grandmother die in front of our eyes. She was already half-drowned, and the doctors said there was nothing they can do because she had swallowed so much dirty water.

Some are privately quite shocked by the lack of organisation and the failure of the authorities to take some basic steps such as getting rid of the corpses quickly.

I guess they are still dwarfed by the scale of the suffering.

And there is a time lag - it takes a while for the aid agencies to figure out what is needed and where.

The aid is now building up further down in Sumatra, and soon it should start arriving here. Bits are already arriving.

But then there is a logistical log jam here because roads are closed. It's a question of getting aid all round the region, and there are no easy answers to the problems.

Chris Hogg: Phuket, Thailand : 1015 GMT

It's a varied picture across Thailand.

It's fair to say the focus is shifting now, so we shouldn't call it a search and rescue anymore, but a recovery.

The numbers of survivors coming out has slowed to a trickle - it's about recovering the bodies now.

Mainly the destruction is along a thin coastal strip. Here there are places where you can get hold of food and water, but in islands so severely devastated, the concern is finding the bodies and getting them out as quickly as possible.

The government is trying to get refrigerated lorries to these places, so the bodies can be preserved for as long as possible and identified.

Again we have seen scenes of some panic as somebody set off the sirens which had been installed and there were scenes of people running off the beach.

Rescuers ran off as soon as they heard the sirens, trying to get to high ground as soon as possible.

But along Patong beach, where many lost their lives, some people have returned to the beach and are sunbathing today.

Dumeetha Luthra: Galle, Sri Lanka : 1002 GMT

When they heard the rumours here in Galle people started running away from the sea. But the government has issued a warning saying there's no need to panic - they're confident this is a false alarm.

We understand there is enough food in Sri Lanka to feed 750,000 people, but the key is getting that to the parts of the country where it's needed.

Bodies are buried as quickly as possible now and this is a key element of any recovery operation.

Sri Lanka is trying to come to terms with what has happened. There are still people who don't know where their families are, and there are people standing around who just want to know what has happened to their loved ones.

Sunil Raman: Nagappatinam, Tamil Nadu, India : 0850 GMT

Hundreds of panic-stricken residents in the coastal areas of Tamil Nadu are leaving their homes and shelters after fresh warnings of tsunami were issued today.

The 25-km road from Nagappatinam to Thiravarur, the nearest town, is clogged with vehicles leaving the town.

People clutching their belongings have begun an exodus on foot from the towns and villages along the coast.

Just before 1100 (IST) people at the Nagapattinam harbour saw sea water levels rise. Soon, the government agencies warned that past noon a fresh tidal wave could hit the coast.

The town which was to be visited by the state chief minister, Ms Jayalalaitha, and later prime minister Manmohan Singh, suddenly saw people run out of their homes.

Women with babies in their arms and old people were helped out, and others ran out onto the streets.

"It is coming", screamed a few men who were escaping atop a lorry. Many people stood confused but were pulled out by others.

Driving towards Vilangani, we saw vehicles with headlights on speeding in the opposite direction. Policemen frantically waved to people to turn back.

Old and infirm had a difficult time moving out. Some just stood by as the able-bodied jumped into trucks and lorries. The rescue effort was abandoned.

Rescue teams piled onto lorries and drove out. Bulldozers and earthmovers have driven out of the affected area.

Such was the panic to get out of the area that cars were being forcibly stopped to take people.

One old woman clutching her grandchild said: "They are saying that the wave is coming". One more query and her husband called out: "Come fast, there is no time to wait."

Paul Danahar: Nagapattinam, southern India : 0632 GMT

There was panic in Nagapattinam after rumours that another tsunami wave was about to hit the city.

Thousands fled after a coastal alert issued by the Indian Home Ministry reporting a possible aftershock from Sunday's earthquake.

The Home Ministry says it was warned by the Indian Space Research Organisation of tremors measuring up to 7.5 on the Richter scale in the Indian Ocean. However a spokesman from the Indian Space Research Organisation said he could not confirm that that information was correct.

Matthew Grant: Nagapattinam, India : 0505 GMT

Aid workers in Nagapattinam say the next 24 to 48 hours will be critical in preventing the spread of disease.

Sanitation is dreadful in the relief camps, they say. Children with diarrhoea are going to the toilet right next to where their families are eating.

Simple measures such as building proper facilities and giving people soap to wash their hands could make all the difference.

The director of medical services says the need for counselling is equally pressing. Many people remain in a complete state of shock and can't even think about how to begin rebuilding their lives.

Gina Wilkinson: Galle, Sri Lanka : 0500 GMT

Teams of foreign aid workers and engineers are fanning out along the battered southern coast.

Their priority is fixing water pipes and sanitation systems. In these hot and humid conditions relief workers are racing to prevent an outbreak of water-borne disease from compounding the tragedy.

The military says it is now focusing on repairing damaged roads and communication links to speed up the delivery of aid to the worst hit parts of the country.

Chris Hogg: Phuket, Thailand : 0450 GMT

It's been so hot here each day since the wave struck that the bodies being pulled from the wreckage are now often barely recognisable.

The authorities here believe that most of the 6,000 people still missing are likely to be dead. If that turns out to be the case, the final casualty figures will be seven times greater than the government's worst fears in the early stages of this disaster.

Foreign aid has started to arrive - funds to help pay for the relief effort, and supplies. Search and rescue teams from several European countries are already working with the Thais and British forensic scientists are expected to arrive in the next few hours to help with the effort to identify those killed.

Andrew Harding: Aceh, Indonesia : 0255 GMT

Progress is painfully slow here, relief supplies barely trickling in. The regional capital is still desperately short of drinking-water, the streets clogged with corpses.

The logistics are daunting: one small airport to bring in aid, petrol scarce and key coastal roads blocked where the wave took out bridges. Indonesia's navy has sent ships to isolated communities on the west coast of this vast island, but the picture there is still unclear.

The town of Meulaboh, population 95,000, has been almost completely wiped out: the epicentre was just offshore. Across the whole region clean water must now be the main priority, followed by food and medical supplies. Hospitals here are overwhelmed, with infection spreading in the tropical heat.


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