Independent Television News Reports from Tsunami
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MARGARET WARNER: We begin our coverage of the tsunami’s aftermath with three reports from the region. Dan Rivers, of Independent Television News, has the latest from Banda Aceh, on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
DAN RIVERS: New Year’s Eve, Banda Aceh, it’s famous mosque shrouded in smoke, the clock struck at 8:30, the time, the date, the year that Indonesia will never forget. The army has started to clear this central square, determined they will reclaim this city. But 100 feet away, there’s still untouched horror.
We’ve seen so many bodies here but this is the only one we’ve seen having any sort of funeral rites performed on it. Hundreds and hundreds of other people, thousands, tens of thousands have simply been scooped up by diggers and dumped in mass graves. Out of town, refugees are flooding into makeshift camps, chaotic, squalid, and for survivors this is the only option. This is how they wash up here.
Water is too precious to throw away. There are fears of a measles outbreak among the children; barely any are inoculated. They are surviving on rice donated by locals. Everybody has a story to tell. Huseran survived the tsunami by climbing a tree. His three children are dead. So is his wife and his two brothers.
MAN (translated): I went to find my family. I looked for 12 hours but couldn’t see anyone. But there were a lot of dead bodies.
DAN RIVERS: The missing stare out from posters scanned by the desperate trying to find their loved ones. We took one man from the camp back to his village. Ewan is a fireman. He was called out to put out a house fire. It meant he lived. But his wife, his sons, his daughters, his three sisters, and two brothers all died.
MAN (translated): I just can’t say anything. I lost everything I have. I don’t know how I feel.
DAN RIVERS: People like Ewan need help fast. They have nothing but profound trauma.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, coping with the impact of the tsunami on Thailand’s coast. Ian Williams of Independent Television News reports from the islands of Phuket and Koh Phi Phi.
IAN WILLIAMS: The tsunami appears to have struck differently in the Phi Phi Islands, where hundreds are thought to have died. We flew there today with the army, the largest island is shaped like a bow tie, the mountainous wings separated by a flat, narrow strip of land, an apparently protected cove on either side.
But some eyewitnesses say the waves wrapped themselves around the island, hitting the narrow strip from both sides and devastating this, the most densely populated part. It’s been five days since the tsunami struck, but rescue workers are still finding bodies here on what was a particularly popular destination for British tourists. During our 20 minute stopover, we saw six bodies taken away.
This narrow strip of Phi Phi Island between the two bays was a maze of alley ways containing bars, restaurants and hotels. Now this is all that remains. Some Thai news reports claim poor and haphazard building regulations, frequently flouted, were in part to blame for the high number of deaths, the only buildings still standing on this once bustling strip, a couple of the more robust hotels. Also in the air today, Thailand’s deputy prime minister inspecting the damage.
IAN WILLIAMS: Is there sufficient support from overseas? Do you need more help?
SUWAT LIPTANPANLOP, Thailand Deputy Prime Minister: We need technical more than money. We need technical more than money. We have money but sometimes we need experts for identification, some expert.
IAN WILLIAMS: So you need more experts.
SUWAT LIPTANPANLOP, Thailand Deputy Prime Minister: Yes, more experts.
IAN WILLIAMS: Forensic teams from across the world have now arrived in southern Thailand. This group from Finland taking DNA samples in an effort to identify rapidly decomposing bodies. A team of British policemen is also now in Phuket. Some of the Thai victims of the disaster were today buried in mass graves. The total number of dead now stands at more than four and a half thousand more than half of them foreign tourists. More than 6,000 are still missing.
MARGARET WARNER: As many as 2,000 Americans believed to be in the area when the tsunami hit have still not been accounted for. Now, a look at recovery efforts in the hard-hit island nation of Sri Lanka. ITN’s Philip Reay Smith filed this report from the country’s capital, Colombo.
PHILIP REAY SMITH: It’s taken days to get here, but now it’s arriving from around the world; from Canada, water purification caches and plastic sheeting — from Poland, medical supplies. In fact, today Colombo’s airport saw a traffic jam of planes delivering international aid. But it’s a long road to the people who need it.
55,000 in the southern town of Galle last everything they had and when the first international aid finally got through, it created long cues. So many feed help, so few are actually receiving it. And in the North, they need it desperately. Aid here is non-existent. In the hospital, the first UNICEF workers on the scene found children from an orphanage that was swept away. More than 40 died, as did all the staff; children who already have no parents left with nothing.
And so New Year’s Eve in Sri Lanka usually a time of celebration was officially declared a day of mourning. This small island has lost more than 28,000 souls and a million are homeless. The only thing many people can do here is pray that in the New Year they’ll be able to begin the long process of rebuilding and recovery.