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Reports on Ongoing Relief Efforts in Different Parts Of Asia

December 30, 2004 at 12:00 AM EDT


MARGARET WARNER: We begin our tsunami coverage with three reports from Independent Television News. The first is from the island nation of Sri Lanka. The correspondent is Katie Razzall.

KATIE RAZZALL: What’s left of beach front, a thousand bodies recovered so far. A fisherman told us the sea rose up 20 feet, flooding the area — people swimming for their lives. Everybody is touched by death. Like many Sri Lankans, this man works to support his family. Now they are gone.

MAN: My wife and my baby…

KATIE RAZZALL: I’m so sorry.

MAN: So what can I do? What can I do?

KATIE RAZZALL: You can see how high the ocean rose up, sweeping tiles off that house, throwing this boat up onto the roof of this house, this with a Sunday market going on over there, thousands of people in this area, sea coming in, destroying everything as far as the eye can see — a mosque that was there, completely destroyed.

A tenth of the population is homeless, most of the help we’ve seen was donated by Sri Lankans themselves. Food and water isn’t a problem here, but authorities don’t have gloves, masks, equipment to cope with the corpses, disease a real concern.

MAN: My uncle, he died.

KATIE RAZZALL: To the west, constant reminders of loss in the wreckage of homes. Everyone is still dazed. The ocean is always been a friend to this fishing and tourist town, but on Sunday it turned on them with no warning at all. There are stories of miraculous survival. This man rushed his family onto their roof, and then fished drowning people from the 8-foot high torrent in the street below.

BANDULA JAYASURIJYA: I seen, I take up this rope, I throw, I pick up. Pick up some people here.

KATIE RAZZALL: Normal life goes on where it can. Incredibly, this fishing boat and its cargo was swept by the water over the reef of the fish market, winched down again yesterday intact and the tuna is headed for the capital… but such stories are rare in a place now an island in mourning.

MAN: From this home, a mother and daughter lost, from another home, father and small daughter lost.

KATIE RAZZALL: This was a country on the verge of prosperity after years of civil war. But within minutes, lives and businesses washed away. This man’s guest houses are in ruins, no insurance, no money to start again and no prospect of tourists returning soon.

MARGARET WARNER: Now ITN’s Lucy Manning reports from India’s South Coast, which was once dotted with fishing villages.

LUCY MANNING: In Nagappattinam, they knew the sea, lived by it, fished in it, but none could imagine what it could do to them. Half of India’s victims killed here. Upturned boats mirroring lives turned upside down. This could pass as wasteland, but a thousand families lived here on this back water stretch — the smoke now rising from where their homes one stood, 700 cremated here.

“My grandsons, my grandsons,” she cries, here some of the tens of thousands of homeless stay, this their temporary home was a wedding hall, now only sorrow in a place more used to joy. The four children of this family survived, but they lost both their mother and father. On the streets, they clamor for the bread that volunteers hand out.

These people were fishing families, getting their food from the same sea that has now reduced them to handouts. The aid effort has been criticized, too slow and too little. And it certainly looks haphazard as clothes are handed out,. Minutes later another truck arrives to pick up all the unwanted items that have just been delivered. And the local politicians come, but the volunteers say they do nothing.

MAN ON STREET: They’re all coming, making a, out making a big show, going away. No help has come so far.

LUCY MANNING: But some look like they are beyond help, just sitting in the rubble where they once lived. Others struggle for normality, when there is none to be found.

MARGARET WARNER: New earthquake aftershocks in the Indian Ocean today sparked panic along the coasts of Sri Lanka and India. The Indian government issued a tsunami warning at midday, then retracted it hours later. ITN’s Martin Geissler reports from India’s Andaman Islands.

MARTIN GEISSLER: Panic. This was Port Blair on Andaman Island today. “Run,” shouts these men and hundreds fleeing for their lives, they’d heard another tsunami was coming. Some though, couldn’t move, they weren’t able, they could only wait, bewildered. Here, a simple river can do this. And that is causing these islanders desperate, desperate, concern.

MAN: We get the feeling that we might get stepped on by the sea at any time, it’s very insecure because of this fear.

MARTIN GEISSLER: The people on these islands feel exposed in every sense, just a few hundred miles from the earthquake’s epicenter, the Indian government has warned them one big aftershock could bring the seas back upon them once again. More than 10,000 are still missing here on one island cluster alone.

The media are being denied access to the worst affected places, and so, alarmingly, are some of the world’s biggest aid agencies. One group interrupted a government press conference this evening to make their frustrations clear.

STUART ZIMBLE, Doctors Without Borders: From a medical humanitarian perspective, we would like to be invited to go in, any helicopter or boat trip going to any of these outlying areas, in order to help and to look and to assess what is going on. Would you allow us to do that?

MARTIN GEISSLER: “We’ll think about it in the morning,” they were told. It will be weeks, if not months, before the world learns the full story of what has happened here. Sadly, time is something the worst affected on these islands, don’t have.

MARGARET WARNER: Now, we focus on the hardest-hit nation of all, Indonesia, the death toll there has reached nearly 80,000. We start with a report by Dan Rivers of Independent Television News from Aceh Province on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

DAN RIVERS: The first glimpse of what the Indonesians are calling their ground zero. The West Coast of Aceh Province was hardest hit. This amateur footage shows the town of Malabo; officially 3,000 died here. Unofficially, some think perhaps half the 30,000 residents have perished. It is a town still cut off from the outside world, five days after this catastrophe. This is all that remains of Tenom, not a single building left standing.

And this is Chelang, it’s been wiped off the map. It was filmed by conservationist Mike Griffiths. He showed it to the deputy governor of Aceh Province today. He was horrified, unaware of just how bad the west coast now is. Later, we ventured down Aceh’s nightmarish seaboard, driving through mile after mile of desolation. This is just typical of the scenes we’ve encountered on this road. The tsunami smashed its way through here.

You can see before the tsunami came you couldn’t see to the horizon, now you can see all the way out to sea. It deposited all this debris here and after the waves had come through, the villagers say there were screams of people still trapped alive and drowned. The next day this entire place had fallen silent.

The people here are starving; this 60-year-old woman survived but will die unless she gets food. She told me she hasn’t eaten for five days. This woman has been found on a nearby hill; she’s weak and has had no water since Sunday. We helped her into an ambulance bound for Banda Aceh. We’ve just given this woman 100,000 rupee which is a few pounds and they say it might make the difference between surviving and not surviving.

They are taking her to the hospital; she’s been up in the jungle for four days with no food and no water. This is one example of just hundreds of thousands of people here. This old man has been pulling corpses from the rubble, without help, without water. We give him ours, he’s too tired, too traumatized, to talk. The bodies are everywhere, rotting in the road. Just horrific. Laid out without ceremony, grotesquely deformed. Mike had seen this from the air, but nothing could prepare him for experiencing it up close.

MIKE GRIFFITHS: It does remind me of the pictures we see of Nagasaki or Hiroshima, where there was just, I think, one building, one cathedral standing, a gutted cathedral standing and the rest was leveled — a level plain of shards. And that’s more or less the situation here, we have one big building to our left and the rest is just nothing except debris.

DAN RIVERS: These people are on their own, there’s no aid here yet. They’re walking to escape, but this road leads nowhere.