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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 February, 2005, 12:17 GMT
Tsunami elephants 'need help'
By Tim Johnston
BBC News, Jakarta

An elephant removing a damaged car in Banda Aceh, Indonesia
Elephants are able to reach places that machinery cannot
Indonesia has asked Singaporean vets to airlift anti-tetanus vaccines for elephants helping in the massive post-tsunami clean-up.

Their sensitive trunks are being cut by nails, broken timber and jagged sheets of corrugated iron roofing as they push rubble and debris out of the way.

The animals, working in six-hour shifts since the day of the disaster, are playing a vital role in removing debris and need to be inoculated.

Their work is unlikely to end soon.

The elephants, normally used in Sumatra's logging industry, are frequently capable of more delicate work than the heavy machinery that is otherwise used.

They can also get into places where the machinery might be at risk.

But the work is taking its toll as large parts of Sumatra's north-western coastline remain covered with debris.

Heavy toll

Six weeks after the disaster, rescue teams are still recovering more than 1,000 bodies a day from the wreckage.

Indonesia now says it has found more than 115,000 bodies and estimates that another 130,000 are still missing, bringing the total number of deaths to about 245,000 in Indonesia alone.

But even that might not give the full picture.

Privately, the United Nations says that for the purposes of planning, they used an estimate of more than 300,000 dead.


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