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Last Updated: Saturday, 1 January, 2005, 03:46 GMT
Eerie quiet in Aceh
The BBC's Rachel Harvey reports from Aceh on the Indonesian island of Sumatra - the closest landmass to the epicentre of the massive earthquake that sent giant waves crashing into coastlines around the Indian Ocean.

An Indonesian man carries some belongings from his damaged shop in Banda Aceh
People are trying to salvage what they can in Banda Aceh
Friday prayers in Banda Aceh are a chance to reflect and to mourn.

"Aceh weeps but we're not alone," says the cleric in his sermon, his voice choked with tears.

"We have to pick ourselves up and build our lives again."

The dead are remembered in special prayers but here at the main mosque in Banda Aceh there is an eerie quiet.

This should be the main focal point for Friday prayers but all around it is a sea of debris.

All the buildings around the square have been severely damaged.

The bodies have now been cleared away but it is a sea of mud and nobody here is praying.


Help is beginning to arrive but it is still nothing like enough.

The Indonesian government has announced that it is to hold a donor's summit on 6 January.

One local aid worker said action is needed well before then.

"We need to move the dead bodies as soon as possible," he says.

"We also need to treat the people who are suffering from diseases - some of them have swallowed salt-water and sand.

"A lot of people are talking and doing nothing. What we need is people in the field and working."


You do not have to go very far in Banda Aceh to find areas that have not received any help.

Just five minutes from the main road are areas that are completely wrecked.

Indonesian civilians carry a dead body in Banda Aceh
Dead bodies are still being found in many parts of Banda Aceh
People here are trying to clear a route through - by hand - picking away at the rubble.

The houses are ruined and there is debris everywhere.

There are still dead bodies by the side of the road. I can see a foot sticking out from under the rubble.

One man is salvaging what he can from his shattered home - mud-soaked rugs, broken furniture and a partly torn copy of the Koran.

"First, when we saw dead bodies, we took them away," he says.

"But after the fourth day we just couldn't do it anymore - the bodies were decomposing - and some were buried under things.

"There's one near my home but its surrounded by debris and a wrecked car - we just couldn't reach it."

Soldiers and red cross volunteers are clearing the corpses as fast as they can but there are so many of them.

The government has acknowledged that the true number of dead may never be known.

The focus is now on saving those who may be struggling to stay alive.

Harrowing scenes of the tsunami striking Aceh


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