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Last Updated: Friday, 31 December, 2004, 18:30 GMT
Push to speed up tsunami relief
Displaced people struggle for food packets at a relief camp in Nagapattinam, south of Madras in India.
The needs of the people are awesome
World leaders are stepping up global plans to help millions of survivors of the Indian Ocean tsunami which killed more than 124,000 people.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and US Secretary of State Colin Powell are to discuss co-ordinating the aid effort.

The White House announced it would raise the US contribution to the tsunami victims tenfold - to $350m.

New Year festivities were cancelled in several affected countries where memorial services were held.

Thousands are still missing after a huge undersea earthquake struck off the Indonesian island of Sumatra on Sunday, sending giant waves smashing into coastlines from Malaysia to East Africa.

An estimated five million survivors are at risk, with little water, food or shelter.

    Other tsunami developments:

  • In the worst-affected country, Indonesia, officials say the true number of people who died in the country may never be known

  • In the north-eastern village of Mullaitivu in Tamil Tiger-held territory in Sri Lanka, rebel youths burn corpses of the more than 3,000 people who died

  • It could be weeks if not months before all those killed in Thailand are identified, rescue teams in the country say

  • At least 5,000 Europeans are still missing - most of them presumed dead.


Across the Indonesian province of Aceh - a predominantly Muslim area which bore the brunt of both the earthquake and the sea surges - people remembered the dead at Friday prayers.

The BBC's Jonathan Head reports that the river in the capital, Banda Aceh, is packed full of corpses.

One cleric broke down in tears as he tried to deliver his sermon.

"We're weeping now, but we can't afford to grieve for long," he said. "We have to start rebuilding our lives."

A girl eats from her mother's hands at a relief camp in Port Blair, in India's south-eastern Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Thousands of people and hundreds of vehicles are in the sea and we can still see floating buses in deep sea
D. Indika, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Emergency supplies have begun trickling into Meulaboh - the ravaged Indonesian town closest to the epicentre of the earthquake.

Three Indonesian navy ships carrying medical teams are now anchored off Meulaboh. The navy says 90% of the town has been destroyed.

A photographer for AFP news agency who reached the town after a 12-hour motorcycle ride through the jungle said some survivors had had no food since the tsunami struck.

Air distribution remains a major problem in Aceh because of a total collapse of infrastructure.

Planes have been dropping supplies as they have been unable to land at the nearest airport.

But our correspondent says most aid workers go to government officials before starting their vital work which appears to be "hopelessly disorganised".

The Indian authorities are refusing to allow foreign aid agencies to join relief efforts in the devastated islands of Andaman and Nicobar.

Muted festivities

Countries around the region have scaled down New Year celebrations - including Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Turkey.

2004: Asian quake disaster - more than 122,000 dead
2003: Earthquake in Bam, Iran, officially kills 26,271
1976: Earthquake in Tangshan, China, kills 242,000
1970: Cyclone in Bangladesh kills 500,000
1923: Tokyo earthquake kills 140,000
1887: China's Yellow River breaks its banks in Huayan Kou killing 900,000
1826: Tsunami kills 27,000 in Japan
1815: Volcanic eruption of Mount Tambora on Indonesia's Sumbawa Island kills 90,000
1556: Earthquake in China's Shanxi and Henan provinces kills 830,000

In Australia, authorities said it was too late to cancel the celebrations and appealed for donations for the victims.

Revellers in the major cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide paused for a minute's silence to remember those who died.

Sri Lanka - the worst-hit country after Indonesia - has held a day of national mourning.

Buddhist, Christian, Hindu and Muslim leaders across the country held prayers for those who died and for the hundreds of thousands who are destitute.

The World Bank, individual countries and citizens have already pledged $500m in aid.

After meeting Kofi Annan in New York on Friday, the US Secretary of State is to visit stricken areas on Sunday.

1. Indonesia: 79,940
2. Sri Lanka: 28,508
3. India (inc Andaman and Nicobar Is): 10,763
4. Thailand: 4,541
5. Somalia: 120
6. Burma: 90
7. Maldives: 67
8. Malaysia: 65
9. Tanzania: 10
10. Seychelles: 1
11. Bangladesh: 2
12. Kenya: 1


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