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Written By Syafrein Effendiuz on 5/01/05 | Rabu, Januari 05, 2005


Tsunami carnage shocks Powell
Wednesday, January 5, 2005 Posted: 8:49 AM EST (1349 GMT)
BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has taken a firsthand look at the tsunami-ravaged Indonesian province of Aceh by helicopter, saying he was shocked by what he saw.
"I have never seen anything like this," Powell, a military veteran, told reporters at a news conference in the provincial capital of Banda Aceh following a two-hour helicopter tour of the surrounding area with Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, President Bush's brother.
"We've all seen pictures on our television sets and in our newspapers of the damage that occurred here, but only by seeing it in person from a helicopter flying low over the city can you get a real appreciation of what it must have been like when the tsunami came through and caused so much death and destruction."
Powell spoke shortly before millions of people in Europe observed three minutes silence to mourn the dead and the missing. (Full story )
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder announced that his country was pledging 500 million euros ($660 million) for the tsunami-stricken area.
Hundreds of villages along the coast of Sumatra have vanished. All that remains are a few blocks or pieces of wood -- and in some cases a mosque, better built than other buildings.
Roads and bridges, too, are gone, making reaching the survivors -- who would have been forced to flee into the hills, mountains and rain forests beyond the coast -- all but impossible.
Banda Aceh airport has become the nerve center of the relief effort following the disaster that has killed at least 94,000 people on the northwest end of the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
Aid packages for Indonesia are being flown first to Medan, on the east coast, then northwest by airplane to Banda Aceh, where U.S. helicopters fly aid to survivors where they are found.
When the helicopters return to the airport, they usually bring a load of seriously injured people who have gone without medical care for 10 days. With hospitals full, many are being treated at a makeshift medical clinic at the airport.
Many of those less seriously injured are walking up the beach, subsisting on coconuts as they try to make their way to help.
Powell, who will brief the president and members of Congress when he returns to Washington, said the trip gave him a better understanding of the needs of Banda Aceh and the challenges facing the Indonesian government.
The United States will increase the number of helicopters working out of Banda Aceh, Powell said, without giving specifics.
Washington has said it plans to double the number of U.S. military helicopters operating in the tsunami-stricken regions from 46 to more than 90. (Full story )
The death toll from the earthquake and tsunamis, which shattered tourist resorts and seaside communities from Thailand to East Africa, has topped 155,000.
The United States has thrown its financial and military weight into southern Asia relief efforts, not to gain favor in the Islamic world, but because it's what Americans do, Powell said earlier.
"We are doing it regardless of religion," Powell said, "but I think it does give the Muslim world -- and the rest of the world -- an opportunity to see American generosity, American values in action, where we care about the dignity of every individual and the worth of every individual." (Full story )
Indonesia is the largest Muslim nation in the world and was the hardest hit by the disaster.
The United States has so far pledged $350 million for relief efforts, and Powell promises more if it is needed "because of the human dimensions of this catastrophe."

Other developments
Indonesian authorities have taken steps to protect displaced or orphaned children from traffickers after last week's disaster, barring people from leaving the country with children under 16 from its hard-hit Aceh province. (Full story )
Sweden has begun paying homage to the many nationals who died, putting on a formal and symbolic ceremony for the first bodies returning to home soil. (Full story )
Myanmar's rocky shoreline and the angle of the coast prevented the damage that killed more than 5,000 in Thailand and thousands more on India's Andaman Islands which are about 200 miles (320 km) off the coast, a Red Cross official has told CNN (Full story )

Marines in Sri Lanka
Meanwhile, a contingent of U.S. Marines has arrived in Sri Lanka, charged with Herculean humanitarian tasks left in the wake of last month's tsunamis.
Between 900 and 1,200 Marines will be deployed in Sri Lanka, along with heavy-lifting helicopters, bulldozers, generators and tons of food, water and medical supplies.
Indian officials report that almost 6,000 people are missing on the Andaman and Nicobar islands, which run northward from Sumatra in the Bay of Bengal. Most of those -- more than 4,600 -- are missing from a single small island, Katchal.
India has experienced the same difficulties as Indonesia in reaching the remote islands, which are closer to Indonesia and Thailand than to their mother country. And, because they are islands, access is even more limited as few have any place to land an aircraft and the waves destroyed boat docks.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the world has donated or pledged more than $2 billion for the relief effort, and more will be needed.
He said he will launch a fresh appeal after Thursday's meeting of ASEAN countries.
CNN Correspondents Mike Chinoy in Aceh, Satinder Bindra in Sri Lanka, and Aneesh Raman contributed to this report