The New York Times continues their strong coverage of the effects of the tsunami with seven articles today.
As Officials Falter, the New Rich Roll in to Help By DAVID ROHDE and AMY WALDMAN
Indonesia Dispatches Troops to Aid Towns Left in Rubble By ERIC LICHTBLAU
With Thousands Missing, European Leaders Tell Citizens to Prepare for the Worst By ALAN COWELL
Relief Delivery Lags as Deaths Pass 140,000 By ROBERT D. McFADDEN
Relief Groups Hail Level of Donations by Individuals By STEPHANIE STROM
U.S. Begins Shuttle of Aid to Victims Along Thai Coast By JAMES BROOKE and NICK CUMMING-BRUCE
U.S. Vows Big Increase in Aid for Victims of Asian Disaster By DAVID E. SANGER and WARREN HOGE
The Indonesian military shifted the brunt of its rescue and relief efforts on Friday to remote coastal towns near the epicenter of this week's tsunami disaster, converging by land, sea and air on areas that had largely been wiped out by the wall of water.
Soldiers reported that in coastal towns like Meulaboh, a scenic fishing village about 180 miles south of Banda Aceh, the province capital, about 80 percent of the area's homes and shops had been reduced to rubble. At least 7,000 people are confirmed dead in Meulaboh alone. But difficulties reaching some nearby inland communities have worsened fears that the toll there could grow much higher.
"Meulaboh is gone, destroyed," a senior military officer said. While the more populated area of Banda Aceh, to the north, has been the focus of international attention, "Meulaboh is much worse than anything we've seen in Banda Aceh," the officer said.
In Calang, another coastal town midway between Banda Aceh and Meulaboh, 6,000 people are missing, the officer said.
Six days after the tsunami hit, Indonesian officials are only now beginning to realize the extent of the devastation in the smaller coastal towns south of here because of difficulties gaining immediate access.
With hopes dimming for thousands of European tourists still missing after the Asian tsunamis, leaders in Scandinavia and elsewhere urged their citizens on Friday to brace for what was termed "an incomprehensible tragedy."
Cities across the Continent readied for a somber New Year's, with trees on the Champs-Élysées in Paris draped in black and fireworks displays canceled from Rome to Stockholm.
In overall terms, the estimated 7,000 missing Europeans are only a tiny fraction of the 125,000 people thought to have died in the disaster on Dec. 26. But the catastrophe has provoked a blend of responses among Europeans ranging from charity in relief donations to rage at political leaders over perceived slow responses to it.
"There is good reason to ask whether it took too long for governments in Denmark, Sweden and Norway to understand the scope of the catastrophe and of the acute need to help their citizens," the Norwegian daily newspaper Aftenposten said in an editorial.
Even in Britain, whose government has taken a lead in pledging relief funds worth about $92 million and whose citizens have raised a staggering $85 million since Tuesday in charitable donations, Prime Minister Tony Blair has been criticized for continuing to vacation in Egypt rather than returning home to oversee the relief effort.
Proud and increasingly prosperous, India and Sri Lanka have promised to spare no expense to help the tens of thousands whose lives were overturned in this week's tsunami disaster. While tiny Sri Lanka's resources will almost certainly not be enough, and the country is welcoming any and all international aid, in India's case, the country has said it needs no outside help.
. . .
This week India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declared the nation did not need help from other countries to deal with the tsunami.
Mr. Singh said that several countries, including the United States, had offered assistance, but that "I have told them that, as of now, we feel we have adequate resources to meet the challenge."
The stance does not preclude aid from multilateral agencies like the World Bank or United Nations or nongovernmental organizations. But in the end, viewed from the ground, the problem often seemed less a lack of resources than the administrative systems to deliver them. The same is mostly true in Sri Lanka.
In fact, the flood of help from nongovernment organizations and individuals was producing problems, said Shantha Sheela Nair, the acting relief commissioner in Nagappattinam's district.
[DAVID ROHDE and AMY WALDMAN]
Ten helicopter airdrops and seven truckloads of supplies finally reached what Indonesian officials called one of the most devastated places in Sumatra: the remote, scenic fishing community of Meulaboh, where 7,000 were confirmed dead and officials said as much as a third of the population of 120,000 may have perished in the tsunami.
"Meulaboh is gone, destroyed," a senior Indonesian military officer said after the helicopter pilots told of a town where 80 percent of the homes and shops were reduced to rubble. Officials also said they were deeply concerned about three nearby inland villages whose communications and roads were cut.
. . .
It was clear that the relief effort, for all its global reach and pledges of millions, was in a race against time to save as many as five million people left homeless and destitute by what is now regarded as one of history's worst calamities.
With images of communities washed away and of ragged, dazed survivors begging for help, the world was hardly in a mood for a New Year's Eve celebration. Many nations went ahead with fireworks displays, concerts and other public events to mark the occasion, but also urged revelers to rein in the excesses and to spare thoughts, and donations, for the victims.
[ROBERT D. McFADDEN]
The huge response from individual donors who want to help victims of the tsunami in Southeast Asia, spurred in part by a year-end spirit of gift-giving, has stunned officials at the world's largest private relief agencies.
Many relief agency officials, accustomed to begging for donations after a disaster has hit, called the response "unprecedented." They said that while no one has tallied all private giving, the numbers reported by individual organizations indicate that the amount will far surpass contributions for previous disasters.
Even efforts by companies to coordinate private giving has exceeded expectations. "Wow," said Craig Berman, spokesman for Amazon.com, when he was told that donations to the Red Cross through the company's Web site had topped $8 million by Friday morning. (By evening, they exceeded $9 million.)
In five days, Oxfam raised $28 million around the world, $7.5 million each from the United States and Britain and $5 million from Australia. "We are looking at the type of giving and interest in volunteering and giving in kind that is equal to and may end up eclipsing the response we saw to the super-famine in Ethiopia in 1984, where the numbers of dead were well over one million," said Nathaniel Raymond, communications adviser for humanitarian response at Oxfam America.
Mike Kiernan, a spokesman for Save the Children USA, said that in the month following a disaster, the organization was normally lucky to receive several hundred thousand dollars. It garnered $6 million in four days after the tsunami disaster.
American cargo planes started a shuttle service from Bangkok on Friday, bringing tarpaulins and bedding to shelter the living and dry ice by the ton to preserve the dead in the beach resorts of southern Thailand devastated by the tsunami.
But as supplies moved out, the big challenge that remained was how to distribute aid to survivors scattered along thousands of miles of beaches in 11 nations bathed by the Indian Ocean.
Starting this weekend, American air operations for the entire Indian Ocean relief effort are to be directed out of Utapao, a Thai air base 90 miles south of Bangkok. The airlift will be part of a task force to be commanded by Lt. Gen. Robert R. Blackman, a marine who is the overall American military commander in Okinawa.
"The roads are washed out, trucks can't get through because there is flooding in some areas, maybe a bridge is out," said Lt. Col. David Mobley, commander of an Air Force Special Operations group that flew to Bangkok from Okinawa. "In some places, the road is covered with stuff and we have to get bulldozers there to clear it out."
[JAMES BROOKE and NICK CUMMING-BRUCE]
President Bush announced Friday that he would increase emergency aid to stricken areas of Asia to $350 million from $35 million, and said the United States would probably add more resources as the scope of what he called an "epic disaster" became clearer.
At the United Nations, Jan Egeland, the emergency aid coordinator, said the new American money had increased the overall amount donated to nearly $1.2 billion from 40 nations, with new pledges continuing to come in hourly. "I've never, ever seen such an outpouring of international assistance in any international disaster, ever," he said.
Mr. Bush's ninefold increase in the amount of aid was the second time this week that the United States had committed more money to the effort, and it came after criticism that the president, who has stayed on his 1,600-acre ranch all week and spoken publicly about the disaster once, had reacted too slowly.
[DAVID E. SANGER and WARREN HOGE]