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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 January, 2005, 16:52 GMT
Tsunami aid pledges top $3bn
Bird eye's view of Banda Aceh's coastline
Aceh bore the brunt of the devastation wrought by the tsunami
Germany, Britain and Australia have substantially increased aid pledged to states hit by the Indian Ocean tsunami.

Germany has now promised $674m, while the UK says its aid will go up from $100m to several hundred million over the next few weeks.

Australia has become the biggest contributor, pledging $765m to Indonesia, the worst-hit country.

More than $3bn has been pledged so far. A huge aid effort is under way as donors prepare to meet in Indonesia.

Under discussion:
Debt relief: Suspension of payments or forgiveness of debt for affected countries
Reconstruction: Co-ordinating the aid effort and rebuilding process
Tsunami warning: An early warning system for the Indian Ocean

Canada remains the only donor so far to have also declared a unilateral moratorium on debt repayments, but Japan has said it also is willing to do so and other countries have indicated they would support the idea.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell, who earlier visited the devastated Indonesian province of Aceh, is now on his way to the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, to attend the donor conference there on Thursday.

Participants will focus on co-ordinating the aid and recovery efforts, and are also likely to consider establishing a tsunami alert system for the Indian Ocean region.

Colin Powell hugs a US aid worker in Aceh

Mr Powell said during his visit to Aceh that the devastation he saw there was unlike anything he had seen before.

Mr Powell, who is on a tour of tsunami-hit countries, has reiterated Washington's commitment to reconstruction.

The US has sent warships, aircraft and medical team to take part in an international effort to send aid to survivors in Indonesia and other affected countries.

The Pentagon has said it may double to 90 the number of its helicopters being used.

In other developments:

  • Almost 300 Somalis are now said to have died in the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster, Somali officials say

  • European Union countries observe a three-minute silence to honour the victims

  • Shops re-open in villages in eastern Sri Lanka for the first time since the waves hit on 26 December

  • Sri Lankan fishermen take to the sea for the first time since the disaster to try to disprove fears fish have been contaminated by corpses.

Delivering relief

The head of the UN's Development Programme (UNDP) Mark Malloch-Brown who has just been appointed UN head Kofi Annan's chief of staff says the organisation has a firm grip on the relief operation.

"Banda Aceh has presented one of the biggest problems because of the logistical bottleneck of limited airport facilities, but we're overcoming that with helicopters, improved airport management to allow much faster flow-through of goods," he told the BBC World Service's Newshour programme.

"So I think one by one we are knocking off some of the early problems that have dogged the swiftness of response."

A mosque remains standing amid the rubble in Teunom, Indonesia.

In Indonesia, the relief effort is concentrating on towns and villages along Aceh's western coast, which have been devastated.

In Meulaboh, just 150km (93 miles) from the epicentre of the undersea earthquake, UN officials estimate that 40,000 of the town's 95,000 residents have been killed.

The BBC's Andrew North, who has visited the remote town, says only a handful of relief teams are working there, and with so much of the area destroyed, their impact is inevitably limited.

Thousands are living in increasingly dire conditions in a makeshift camp, with just two toilets.

Rubbish is piled up next to pools of water from recent rainfall which people use to drink, wash and cook.

About 500,000 survivors have been left homeless in Indonesia alone, while the total across affected countries has been estimated at five million.

The death toll in Indonesia is currently more than 94,000, and is expected to rise further.

In total, about 140,000 people have been confirmed dead in a dozen countries.

1. Indonesia: 94,081
2. Sri Lanka: 30,229
3. India (inc Andaman and Nicobar Is): 9,682
4. Thailand: 5,246
5. Somalia: 298
6. Burma: 64
7. Maldives: 82
8. Malaysia: 67
9. Tanzania: 10
10. Seychelles: 1
11. Bangladesh: 2
12. Kenya: 1


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