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Last Updated: Monday, 3 January, 2005, 12:06 GMT
Tsunami death toll nears 140,000
US helicopter delivers aid to  Kewde Teunom, Aceh province in Indonesia
Aid is finally reaching remote parts of Indonesia
The confirmed death toll from the Indian Ocean earthquake is still rising more than a week after the disaster.

The worst-hit country, Indonesia, now says more than 94,000 people died there alone, as total deaths near 140,000.

A massive relief operation is gathering pace and the UN says it is hopeful the world will be able to meet the challenge of getting aid to survivors.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell is on his way to the region to assess the damage wrought at first hand.

More than 1.8m people in the disaster region need food aid, and an estimated five million people have been made homeless.

The UN believes the true number killed by the sea surges may never be known as many bodies have been washed out to sea.

Sri Lanka and India say they are almost ready to give up on more than 11,000 people still unaccounted for.

Enormous task

In the worst hit area - Indonesia's northern Aceh province - planes carrying supplies are arriving regularly at the main airport and US, Indonesian, Australian and Malaysian military aircraft are ferrying aid to areas of need.

They [survivors] were crawling every direction around the helicopter, they were swarming
Brennan Zwak
US Navy officer

But there have been frantic scenes as mobs of desperate survivors scramble to retrieve air-dropped supplies.

The BBC's Rachel Harvey in Aceh describes stunned foreign aid workers arriving and absorbing for the first time the extent of the devastation - and the scale of the task ahead.

In other developments:

  • In northern Sri Lanka, Tamil Tiger rebels and the government are working together to hand out relief supplies

  • The Indonesian government says it has begun working with neighbouring countries to establish an early warning system to prevent a repeat of the disaster

  • The Thai and Japanese navies are searching for bodies off the Thai coast after a request from Sweden - which is missing nearly 3,000 nationals in the disaster

  • The aid fund reaches $2bn as Canada doubles its contribution to $67m and Taiwan increases its pledge to $50m.

The UN's emergency relief co-ordinator has said he is increasingly optimistic that "the global community will be able to face up to this enormous challenge".

Jan Egeland said logistical bottlenecks hampering speedy delivery of aid were clearing, with new co-ordination centres set up in Aceh and Jakarta.

But he warned major problems remained in getting aid to all the needy in Indonesia. Top regional officials there have warned that in spite of improvements some places may not receive aid for up to two weeks.

Island co-operation

In Sri Lanka - the hardest-hit nation after Indonesia - aid efforts have been hampered by continuing heavy rains and flash flooding.

But in Kilinochchi, the main town under rebel control in the north of the country, Tamil Tiger rebels have set up a joint task force with the government to try to oversee aid distribution, reports the BBC's Frances Harrison.

A mother and child from Car Nicobar island at a relief camp in Port Blair
Andaman and Nicobar islanders have complained of neglect

All incoming aid to badly hit areas in rebel territory is being channelled through two collection points where its distribution is being supervised by a committee comprising members of the government, rebels, aid agencies and civil society groups.

Officials in Sri Lanka have reportedly said 40% of the more than 28,000 people known to have died were children.

In India's remote Andaman and Nicobar islands, survivors are being inoculated against cholera and typhoid to prevent the spread of disease.

But local anger over the slow pace of the aid effort remains in the islands, where Delhi is anxious to control access by aid groups due to the presence of an Indian air force base.

In some islands riots have been reported.

1. Indonesia: 94,081
2. Sri Lanka: 29,744
3. India (inc Andaman and Nicobar Is): 9,451
4. Thailand: 5,046
5. Somalia: 142
6. Burma: 53
7. Maldives: 74
8. Malaysia: 67
9. Tanzania: 10
10. Seychelles: 1
11. Bangladesh: 2
12. Kenya: 1

The massive relief effort is beginning to take shape


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