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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 January, 2005, 17:41 GMT
Aceh wave impact shocks rescuers
Injured people on floor at a Banda Aceh hospital
Doctors are struggling in Aceh to treat the injured
Aid workers in Indonesia's Aceh province have been discovering the full horror of the devastation wreaked by the Indian Ocean tsunami last week.

They have found villages where as many as 80% of the population were killed, and survivors are living on coconuts.

Indonesia accounts for some 94,000 of the 140,000 deaths from the disaster.

Aid is now flowing into Aceh's sole airport in the capital, Banda Aceh, after the runway was blocked for 15 hours by a damaged plane.

About 40,000 died in and around the Aceh town of Meulaboh alone, where local aid workers said "tens of thousands" need immediate assistance.

"The casualty rates in Meulaboh defy imagination," said Aitor Lacomba, Indonesian director of aid group International Rescue Committee.

The BBC's Andrew North reports there is barely a building left standing in many neighbourhoods near the coast.

It is almost impossible to take in the scale of the devastation, our correspondent says.

The picture becomes grimmer and grimmer the more we learn
Erwin Vantland

The wreckage is still dotted with hundreds of flags marking places where bodies have been found, waiting to be collected, and the air reeks of decay.

Indonesia has banned the transfer of children under the age of 16 out of Aceh amid United Nations concern over possible human trafficking for illegal adoption.

In other developments:

  • In Sri Lanka, the second worst-affected country, a day of relentless rain hampers aid deliveries

  • An Indonesian man swept away by the tsunami is found alive clinging to branches, almost 200km off the coast of Aceh, by a Malaysian cargo ship

  • The UN World Food Programme says it believes hundreds of Burmese fisherman died in the tsunami, unaccounted for in official government figures

  • Thailand suspends the head of its national meteorology department, Suparerk Tansriratanawong, as part of a government inquiry into why no warnings were given of the tsunami

Helicopters have been ferrying aid workers from the French-based agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) to Aceh's more remote parts.

Swedish tsunami survivors watch a digger on Patong Beach, Thailand
Germany: 60 dead
1,000 missing
Sweden: 52 dead
2,322 missing
Britain: 41 dead
159 missing
France: 22 dead
99+ missing
Norway: 16 dead
91 missing
Japan: 21 dead
Italy: 18 dead
540+ missing
Switzerland: 23 dead
105 missing
US: 16 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

In one town where MSF has been working, some 70% of the population seem to have been killed while in another village it is close to 80%, MSF's Erwin Vantland told BBC World TV.

"The people who survive have done that under very difficult circumstances, often surviving on coconuts alone," he said.

"The picture becomes grimmer and grimmer the more we learn," he said.

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 in the town of Banda Aceh 3,000 displaced people were sharing just four toilets.

The UN said at the weekend that more than 1.8m people across the Indian Ocean, from Indonesia to Somalia, needed food aid and about five million were homeless.

Aid spat

Around $2bn in aid has been pledged by governments and international agencies to tackle the aftermath of the undersea earthquake off Sumatra on 26 December, which triggered the tsunami.

Boy amid the ruins of his home in Banda Aceh
Whole communities melted away in seconds in Aceh
US Secretary of State Colin Powell, who arrived in Indonesia after a visit to Thailand, has pledged America's full support in the relief effort.

Speaking in Jakarta, he said he hoped the sight of US Navy helicopters ferrying aid to people in Indonesia would show Muslims and the rest of the world "American values in action".

And British Chancellor Gordon Brown is proposing that the foreign debts owed by countries hit by the Asian tsunami be frozen.

But MSF's director-general, Pierre Salignon, has asked donors to stop sending it money for tsunami victims.

MSF had received more than $50m, sufficient to fully fund all its current disaster projects in the Indian Ocean, he said.

Several other aid organisations strongly disagreed, with one saying the MSF statement might make the public mistakenly believe that no other groups still needed disaster relief and reconstruction funds.

1. Indonesia: 94,081
2. Sri Lanka: 30,196
3. India (inc Andaman and Nicobar Is): 9,479
4. Thailand: 5,246
5. Somalia: 150
6. Burma: 59
7. Maldives: 74
8. Malaysia: 68
9. Tanzania: 10
10. Seychelles: 1
11. Bangladesh: 2
12. Kenya: 1

Latest footage reveals the scale of the devastation


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