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Tsunami death toll tops 80,000


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Tsunami death toll tops 80,000


Officials just reaching hardest hit areas in Indonesia





Wednesday, December 29, 2004 Posted: 2:04 PM EST (1904 GMT)







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BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (CNN) -- The latest death toll from the Asian tsunami has increased to more than 80,000 as relief workers and supplies begin to reach some of the most devastated areas.


That number could top 100,000 by the time all bodies are recovered, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said Wednesday.


The dramatic rise of the death toll came after officials were finally able to reach remote regions -- like Indonesia's Aceh province, India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the Maldives.


More than half of the total deaths so far were in Indonesia, the nearest land mass to Sunday's undersea earthquake that triggered the deadly waves and flooding in about a dozen countries, from Thailand to East Africa.


The United Nations' Jan Egeland said one in every four people in some parts of Aceh had been killed.


He also said about $220 million in cash donations had been received or pledged so far for the relief effort and "perhaps and equal amount of funds in in-kind donations" such as military and civil defense aid.


Four days after the quake, Indonesian authorities said they had found mass destruction in Aceh. CNN's Mike Chinoy said the capital of Banda Aceh, which was closest to the epicenter of the quake, was largely destroyed.


Indonesia's Health Ministry confirmed Wednesday that the country's death toll had risen to 45,268, with another 1,240 people still missing.


In Sri Lanka, authorities increased the death toll in that country to 23,015 after every structure along the southern coast was damaged or swept away. More than 4,000 are missing,


The number of deaths from CNN sources in all affected countries now stands at 80,427.


Other nations are continuing to report more casualties from the killer waves, spawned by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake that struck off the western-most portion of the northern Indonesian island of Sumatra.


UNICEF director Carol Bellamy said as many as one-third of the victims may be children, because children are "the least able to withstand the flooding or holding on."


In India, the government news agency said at least 10,000 Indians were killed and more bodies were being recovered.


Along India's southeastern coast, thousands of fishermen who were at sea when the waves thundered ashore have not returned.


In Tamil Nadu state, sources said 7,000 people were dead, and estimates put the death toll at 3,000 on the remote Andaman and Nicobar islands, where dozens of aftershocks were centered.


In Thailand, officials confirmed 1,830 deaths, most of them are believed to have been in the low-lying coastal province of Phang Na.


The country's health ministry said for every Thai resident killed in the disaster, two tourists perished.


Nordic countries dispatched search teams and made public appeals for help to find some 2,700 Swedes, Danes, Finns and Norwegians missing in south Asia.


While Thai officials fear hundreds of tourists may have died, so far at least 64 deaths have been confirmed. Hospital workers and witnesses report hundreds of bodies washing in from the sea.


On the resort island of Phuket, officials have set up a bulletin board of photographs at city hall as well as a Web site to help families and friends find one another.


Some of Thailand's smaller vacation islands were completely swallowed by the water, said Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai.


Khun Poom Jensen, the 21-year-old autistic grandson of Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej, was among those killed.


In all, at least 11 countries -- including Myanmar, Malaysia, Bangladesh and Tanzania -- were affected by the monstrous waves.


With the death count rising, the scale of the devastation is overwhelming.


"I've not experienced anything like this in my 30 years in the relief and emergency business," said Scott Faiia, CARE's country director for Sri Lanka.


Ronen Sen, India's ambassador to the United States, told CNN that this disaster is "of a magnitude which we have not witnessed earlier."


In Sri Lanka, a spokesman for President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, said the death and destruction was causing "a huge situation."


"There are instances where bodies are decomposing, and they're being photographed and fingerprinted" before being taken to mass graves, said Harim Peiris."


"And there are instances where entire families have been wiped out."


There is also concern over disease from corpses, forcing health officials in Sri Lanka to order mass burials before the bodies have been identified by family members.


As the enormous impact of the disaster takes hold, one of the world's largest relief efforts is gaining momentum. Countries and aid organizations around the world are making donations of funding, supplies and personnel to the ravaged areas.


International health and relief organizations have emphasized that getting clean water to survivors is an absolute priority, and they warn of threat of typhoid, malaria and cholera.


"The fundamental need at the moment is to look after the well-being of living people and to make sure that they have what they need for life," David Nabarro, of the World Health Organization, told CNN.


"And the requirement to properly dispose of dead people through burial or some other method in a way that is appropriate for the local tradition is certainly there. But it's not urgent from the point of view of public health."


The United States is offering a total of $35 million, followed by Japan with $30 million. Australia has now pledged $27 million, Saudi Arabia $10 million and Germany $2.7 million.


A number of other countries also are reportedly planning to participate in the relief effort.


Meanwhile, relief workers and supplies have started to arrive in Indonesia's Aceh province.


UNICEF's John Budd told CNN his agency was sending 200,000 emergency kits to Aceh, but more was needed. "Six to eight weeks of emergency funding -- tens of millions in Aceh to keep them alive -- and then long term to rebuild infrastructure," he said.


Complicating the relief efforts in Aceh is an armed separatist movement that has kept the region off-limits to aid groups and journalists for years. The Indonesian government, however, eased those restrictions under the circumstances.


In Sri Lanka, international aid convoys arrived Wednesday in Galle on the southwest corner of the island, bringing drinking water and other aid to residents.


On the remote Andaman and Nicobar islands, east of India, communications lines have been cut and supplies will not be easy to deliver, CNN's Mallika Kapur reported from Port Blair, the Andaman capital.


CNN Correspondents Hugh Riminton in Colombo, Sri Lanka; Satinder Bindra in Matara, Sri Lanka; Atika Shubert and Mike Chenoy in Banda Aceh, Indonesia; Aneesh Raman and Matthew Chance near Phuket, Thailand; and Suhasini Haidar in Chennai, India; and Journalist Iqbal Athas in Sri Lanka contributed to this report.











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