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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 January, 2005, 11:48 GMT
Key Indonesia aid airport cleared
Boeing-737 cargo plane carrying relief supplies lies stranded on the runway at Banda Aceh after hitting a cow
Banda Aceh is vital for getting supplies out to remote areas
The main airport in the Indonesian province of Aceh has re-opened, allowing essential aid deliveries to tsunami-stricken areas to resume.

The runway had been blocked by an incoming aid plane that had hit a cow early on Tuesday. But salvage crews later managed to remove the aircraft.

Air links are vital to supply water, food and medicine to areas struck by the 26 December earthquake and waves.

The overall death toll is currently 140,000 and is set to rise further.

Tuesday's cargo plane accident led to the closure of the only airport in Aceh province.

After hitting the cow the damaged Boeing 737 stopped on the runway, blocking it for most of the day.

Salvage crews had no heavy equipment to remove the aircraft. But after 15 hours, engineers managed to lift it using an airbag and pushed it to the side.

The airport had remained open to helicopters throughout the day.

In other developments:

  • US President George W Bush asks his two immediate predecessors, George Bush Sr and Bill Clinton, to lead a private charitable fund-raising effort in the US

  • The UK proposes an immediate moratorium on debt repayments from tsunami-hit countries, to be discussed by the G8 group of industrialised countries

  • The first planes bringing home the bodies of some of the 52 Swedes known to have died in the tsunami disaster are expected to arrive in Stockholm


UN relief co-ordinator Jan Egeland said the death toll from the earthquake and the tsunami it triggered is likely to "grow exponentially" once aid workers can fully assess the extent of the damage.

In Meulaboh alone, the remote Indonesian town on Sumatra island closest to the epicentre, 40,000 are estimated to have died.

Before the disaster it had a population of 95,000.

Germany: 60 dead
1,000 missing
Sweden: 52 dead
2,322 missing
Britain: 40 dead
159 missing
France: 22 dead
99+ missing
Norway: 21 dead
150 missing
Japan: 21 dead
Italy: 18 dead
540+ missing
Switzerland: 16 dead
105 missing
US: 15 dead
Australia: 12 dead
79 missing
South Korea: 11 dead
9 missing
Figures include those feared dead but not all unaccounted for.
Sources: Reuters, AP

The BBC's Andrew North, one of the first journalists to reach the scene, speaks of complete devastation, with almost every house destroyed.

"In many cases all you see is the outline, the foundation of the house," our correspondent reports.

"The walls and everything that remained has been swept away by the surge."

US Secretary of State Colin Powell - who is touring the region with President Bush's brother, Jeb, the Governor of Florida - pledged America's full support in the relief effort.

"Each country has a different set of needs and what we are going to do is assess those needs," Mr Powell said after visiting the stricken Thai resort of Phuket on Tuesday.

Aid workers have warned of the threat of disease among survivors living in dire conditions.

Titon Mitra, emergency response director for Care International, told the BBC that sanitation facilities in the town of Banda Aceh were appalling.

What will be final toll we will never know, but we may be talking of tens of thousands of further deaths
Jan Egeland
UN relief coordinator
"In these camps here we've got 3,000 people, and there's four toilets for 3,000 people, and normally you'd want for 20 people one toilet."

If these conditions are not improved quickly, he adds, a "serious situation" could develop in the camps.

More than 1.8 million need food aid, and about five million are homeless as a result of the undersea earthquake off Sumatra and the tsunami it triggered.

Around $2bn in aid has been pledged by governments and international agencies.

1. Indonesia: 94,081
2. Sri Lanka: 30,196
3. India (inc Andaman and Nicobar Is): 9,479
4. Thailand: 5,187
5. Somalia: 142
6. Burma: 53
7. Maldives: 74
8. Malaysia: 67
9. Tanzania: 10
10. Seychelles: 1
11. Bangladesh: 2
12. Kenya: 1

The plane listed to one side after the collision


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