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QUAKE, TSUNAMI Survivor is found; aid work steps up



Published: Mon, January 3, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Fisherman Tengku Sofyan was out to sea when the tsunami hit.

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (AP) -- A Sumatran fisherman was discovered barely alive under his beached boat Sunday -- the first survivor found in three days, but with tens of thousands still missing in crushed seaside settlements and in the flotsam washing the shores of the Indian Ocean rescuers turned full attention to getting food and water to the living. Aid agencies said the death toll was expected to hit 150,000.

The discovery of 24-year-old Tengku Sofyan, who could barely speak and was badly dehydrated, came as relief efforts accelerated across the southern Asian destruction zone. He was sent to a hospital in Banda Aceh, on the northern tip of Sumatra, the hardest hit region where an estimated 100,000 died when the most powerful earthquake in four decades ripped a fault line beneath the sea bed 100 miles off shore. The tsunami it spawned turned the world upside down for people living as far away as Somalia, 3,000 miles away on the east coast of Africa.

With rescue teams focused on Sumatra, U.S. military helicopters flew in biscuits, energy drinks and instant noodles to hungry, homeless villagers. The operation was part of a $2 billion global relief effort announced as international donors began assembling for a conference on rebuilding in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, on Thursday.

As the relief efforts drove deeper into the sprawling disaster zone, American pilots had some of the first glimpses of wrecked Sumatran coastal villages such as Kuede Teunom, where survivors in tattered clothing grabbed at bottles of water dropped from helicopters.

Officials said 8,000 of Keude Teunom's 18,000 residents were killed in the disaster.

Wiped-out village

Reporters were given a look at the wiped-out village of Malacca, on the Indian island of Car Nicobar, where the only structure still standing was a statue of independence leader Mahatma Gandhi. About 4,000 people are missing on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Indian territory off the coast of Malaysia.

In New York, U.N. humanitarian chief Jan Egeland said more aid was getting to survivors, but there were still problems helping those in Indonesia.

"We are seeing that the assistance is becoming increasingly effective in all of the countries," he told reporters. "Overall I am more optimistic today than I was yesterday that we the global community will be able to face up to this enormous challenge."

Egeland said 1.8 million people in tsunami-hit countries would need food aid and that figure could rise. It would take about three days to get food to 700,000 people in Sri Lanka but much longer to reach the one million hungry people in Indonesia, he said.

He warned there were still difficulties in reaching survivors in Sumatra's Aceh province. "That is where we are behind really ... 90 percent of our problems are in those areas because they are more remote, because the damage was much bigger, because the roads are more damaged, because the air strips are fewer and they are more damaged."

Out to sea

In Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh province on the northern tip of Sumatra, witnesses said rescued fisherman Sofyan was at sea when the tsunami hit Dec. 26. His boat was tossed onto the beach at Lampulo where he was trapped for a week without food and water. He was the first missing victim discovered alive since Friday.

"He's in extremely fragile condition, especially mentally," said Dr. Irwan Azwar, who treated the fisherman.

After a week of digging through rubble, rescue workers said finding more of the missing alive now bordered on hoping for miracles.

"If you survived the earthquake, you probably were killed by tsunami," said Lamsar Sipahutar, the head of the search team in Indonesia.

In India, which suffered more than 9,000 deaths, officials insisted there was still hope for survivors. But the search was essentially over in Tamil Nadu state, the southern region which bore the brunt of the country's sea surge. Veera Shanmuga Moni, a top administrator of Tamil Nadu's Nagappattinam district, said about 600 people on the missing list would soon be declared dead.

Death tally

The official tally of dead from the catastrophe surpassed 123,000. But with tens of thousands still missing and presumed dead, U.N. officials said they expected the actual toll would exceed 150,000, although the exact tally will probably never be known. Five million people were homeless.

The scope of the relief effort -- like the disaster -- was tremendous.

The American military was mounting its largest operation in southern Asia since the Vietnam War, delivering supplies from the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln stationed off Sumatra and sending Marines and water purifying equipment to Sri Lanka.

Four Indonesian navy frigates loaded with supplies arrived off the coast of Meulaboh, the fishing village that was one of Aceh province's worst-hit spots. About half the town of 40,000 was destroyed. An Associated Press reporter who visited could see fewer than 100 residents searching for food among destroyed homes along the coast.

As a signal of U.S. concern, Secretary of State Colin Powell was to begin a tour of hard-hit areas today. Speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press," Powell defended the administration's efforts against criticism that the United States was slow to respond with financial aid. Washington pledged $35 million at first, but raised that to $350 million Friday.

"The American response has been appropriate. It has been scaled up as the scale of the disaster became more widely known," Powell said.

Health officials in the disaster zone said no medical crisis has yet emerged, although getting clean water and sanitation to hard-hit areas was urgent to prevent disease outbreaks.

He said the 18,000 refugees there had gotten only one aid delivery.




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