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Last Updated: Monday, 3 January, 2005, 02:11 GMT
UN 'optimistic' over aid effort
US Navy personnel escort refugees from the hard-hit Meulaboh district who have been evacuated to Banda Aceh
There are still problems getting aid through to remote areas
The UN's emergency relief co-ordinator has said he is increasingly optimistic about the massive relief effort under way in tsunami-afflicted countries.

Jan Egeland said he was more hopeful that "the global community will be able to face up to this enormous challenge".

But Mr Egeland said there are still major problems getting aid through to the province of Aceh in Indonesia.

More than 94,000 people have been confirmed dead in Indonesia, out of at least 138,000 who died across Asia.

The United Nations says the number killed by the sea surges exceeds 150,000 and may never be known as many bodies have been washed out to sea.

US helicopters have begun dropping supplies in isolated parts of Aceh, which was hardest hit in the disaster.

Roads and airstrips were destroyed by 26 December's earthquake or washed away by the ensuing tsunami waves, making it difficult to deliver aid.

In the second-worst affected country, Sri Lanka, there are fears of disease after heavy rains and flash flooding

In India, supplies were air-dropped onto the Andaman and Nicobar islands after criticism that aid was slow to arrive.

But people are still being found alive seven days after the disaster. The latest was a fisherman found under his boat which was flung by the waves onto the shore in Indonesia.

In other developments:

  • US Secretary of State Colin Powell and President George W Bush's brother Jeb are heading for Thailand and Indonesia to see the devastation at first-hand

  • Police in Thailand say thousands of local people are still missing, presumed dead, in the town of Baan Nam Khem in Phang Nga province

  • The UN puts the overall number of people in need of food aid at 1.8m and urges more protection for thousands of orphans

  • The leader of the worldwide Anglican Church, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, says the devastation in Asia will make believers in God question their faith.

Operation cranks up

In controversial remarks shortly after the disaster hit, Mr Egeland accused rich countries of being "stingy" in their response.

UN emergency relief co-ordinator Jan Egeland
Egeland previously accused rich nations of being 'stingy'
But on Sunday he said he was more optimistic that the world could rise to the challenge.

He said logistical bottlenecks which had also hampered speedy delivery of aid were improving, with new co-ordination centres set up in Aceh, near the epicentre of the earthquake, and Jakarta.

Top regional officials have warned that in spite of improvements some places may not receive aid for up to two weeks.

About 12 American Seahawk helicopters are now delivering aid from a US aircraft carrier stationed off the coast of western Aceh.

The area has been completely cut off for a week, the BBC's Rachel Harvey reports from the provincial capital, Banda Aceh.

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

A vast swathe of coastline which was home to tens of thousands of people has been wiped out and survivors are living in a sea of mud without shelter or clean water.

Aid deliveries are relying on helicopters as the only way to reach the most remote areas but they are often unable to touch down because of mobs of people on the ground running towards them desperate for help.

Disease fears

The authorities in and around Banda Aceh say they are burying 3,500 to 4,000 bodies a day - hoping to increase this to 6,000 so that all corpses will be buried within the next five days.

A woman walks among the rubble in her destroyed shop in the south-western Sri Lankan coastal town of Galle.
More than 1.8m people will have to be fed for months, says the UN

The first contingent of US marines is scheduled to arrive in Sri Lanka on Sunday from a base in Okinawa, Japan, launching what will be the American military's largest-ever operation in Asia since the Vietnam War.

The marines will have 10 helicopters and two C-130 planes to distribute basic supplies to survivors.

A UN special envoy, Margarita Walstrom, said after a visit to Sri Lanka that there were no signs yet of disease but medical staff were anxious about sanitation.

In India, emergency personnel have now reached the most remote locations in the Andaman and Nicobar islands.

The runway at the tsunami-ruined air force base at Car Nicobar is barely serviceable but the military is now managing to fly in plane-loads of desperately needed water and food.

1. Indonesia: 94,081
2. Sri Lanka: 28,729
3. India (inc Andaman and Nicobar Is): 9,451
4. Thailand: 4,993
5. Somalia: 142
6. Burma: 53
7. Maldives: 74
8. Malaysia: 67
9. Tanzania: 10
10. Seychelles: 1
11. Bangladesh: 2
12. Kenya: 1

See the devastation in a village in Indonesia


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