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Confirmed Tsunami Death Toll Reaches 44,000


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Asia Struggles As Death Toll Hits 44,000

 

http://cnn.netscape.cnn.com/news/story.jsp...229.htm&sc=1104

 

SEE ALSO!! TSUNAMI EXTENDED COVERAGE!!

http://www.storm2k.org/phpbb2/viewtopic.ph...54715&start=140

 

 

By ANDI DJATMIKO

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (AP) - Mourners in Sri Lanka used their bare hands to dig graves Tuesday while hungry islanders in Indonesia turned to looting in the aftermath of Asia's devastating tsunamis. Thousands more bodies were found in Indonesia, dramatically increasing the death toll across 11 nations to around 44,000.

 

Emergency workers who reached Aceh province at the northern tip of Indonesia's Sumatra island found that 10,000 people had been killed in a single town, Meulaboh, said Purnomo Sidik, national disaster director at the Social Affairs Ministry.

 

Another 9,000 were confirmed dead so far in the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, and surrounding towns, he said. Soldiers and volunteers combed seaside districts and dug into rubble of destroyed houses to seek survivors and retrieve the dead amid unconfirmed reports that other towns along Aceh's west coast had been demolished.

 

With aid not arriving quick enough, desperate residents in Meulaboh and other towns in Aceh - a region that was unique in that it was struck both by Sunday's massive quake and the killer waves that followed - were turning to looting.

 

``It is every person for themselves here,'' district official Tengku Zulkarnain told el-Shinta radio station from the area.

 

``People are looting, but not because they are evil, but they are hungry,'' said Red Cross official Irman Rachmat in Banda Aceh.

 

In Sri Lanka, the toll also mounted significantly. Around 1,000 people were dead or missing and feared dead from a train that was flung off its tracks when the gigantic waves hit. Rescuers pulled 204 bodies from the train's eight carriages - reduced to twisted metal - and cremated or buried them Tuesday next to the railroad track that runs along the coastline.

 

More than 18,700 people died in Sri Lanka, more than 4,000 in India and more than 1,500 in Thailand, with numbers expected to rise. The Indonesian vice president's estimate that his country's coastlines held up to 25,000 victims would bring the potential toll up to 50,000.

 

Europeans desperately sought relatives missing from holidays in Southeast Asia - particularly Thailand, where bodies littered the once crowded beach resorts. Near the devastated Similan Beach and Spa Resort, where mostly German tourists were staying, a naked corpse hung suspended from a tree Tuesday as if crucified.

 

A blond two-year-old Swedish boy, Hannes Bergstroem, found sitting alone on a road in Thailand and taken to a hospital was reunited with his uncle, who saw the boy's picture on the hospital's Web site.

 

``This is a miracle, the biggest thing that could happen,'' said the uncle, who identified himself as Jim.

 

So far, more than 80 Westerners have been confirmed dead across the region - including 11 Americans. But a British consulate official in Thailand warned that hundreds more foreign tourists were likely killed in the country's resorts.

 

In Sri Lanka, more than 300 people crammed into the Infant Jesus Church at Orrs Hill, located on high ground from their ravaged fishing villages. Families and childres slept on pews and the cement floor.

 

``We had never seen the sea looking like that. It was like as if a calm sea had suddenly become a raging monster,'' said one woman, Haalima, recalling the giant wave that swept away her 5-year-old grandson, Adil.

 

Adil was making sandcastles with his younger sister, Reeze, while Haalima sat in her home Sunday morning. Haalima said the girl ran to her complaining that waves had crushed their castles, then came screams and water entered the home. ``When we looked, there was no shore anymore and no Adil,'' she said.

 

In Sri Lanka's severely hit town of Galle, officials mounted a loudspeaker on a fire engine to advise residents to lay bodies of the dead on roads for collection and burial. Elsewhere in Sri Lanka, residents took on burial efforts with forks or even bare hands to scrape a final resting place for victims.

 

The tidal waves and flooding uprooted land mines in war-torn Sri Lanka, threatening to kill or maim aid workers and survivors who are attempting to return to what's left of their homes.

 

Amid the devastation, however, were some miraculous stories of survival.

 

In Malaysia, a 20-day-old baby was found alive on a floating mattress. She and her family were later reunited. A Hong Kong couple vacationing in Thailand clung to a mattress for six hours.

 

The disaster could be history's costliest, with ``many billions of dollars'' of damage, said U.N. Undersecretary Jan Egeland, who is in charge of emergency relief coordination.

 

Hundreds of thousands have lost everything, and millions face a hazardous future because of polluted drinking water, a lack of sanitation and no health services, he said.

 

Scores of people were also killed in Malaysia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, the Maldives. The tidal waves traveled as far as Somalia, where hundreds were reported dead, and Seychelles, where three were killed.

 

Children have emerged as the biggest victims of Sunday's quake-born tidal waves. The U.N. organization estimates at least one-third of the tens of thousands who died were children, said UNICEF spokesman Alfred Ironside in New York.

 

Officials in Thailand and Indonesia conceded that immediate public warnings of gigantic waves could have saved lives. The only known warning issued by Thai authorities reached resort operators when it was too late. The waves hit Sri Lanka and India more than two hours after the quake.

 

But governments insisted they couldn't have known the true danger because there is no international system in place to track tsunamis in the Indian Ocean, and they could not afford the sophisticated equipment to build one.

 

For most people around the shores across the region, the only warning Sunday of the disaster came when shallow coastal waters disappeared, sucked away by the approaching tsunami, before returning as a massive wall of water. The waves wiped out villages, lifted cars and boats, yanked children from the arms of parents and swept away beachgoers, scuba divers and fishermen.

 

The United States dispatched disaster teams and prepared a $15 million aid package to the Asian countries, and the 25-nation European Union promised to deliver $4 million. Japan, Portugal, China and Russia were sending teams of experts.

 

Egeland said he expected hundreds of relief airplanes from two dozen countries within the next 48 hours.

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