Heavy rain hits tsunami relief efforts

At least 10 camps sheltering more than 2000 tsunami survivors have been hit by flash floods in Sri Lanka's eastern district of Ampara.

    Sri Lanka's toll is expected to top 30,000 over the next few days

    A regional official said on Saturday that massive rains dumped a third of a metre of water overnight on the camps, crippling all relief operations.

    District chief Herath Abeyweera added that a team of 20 Japanese medical staff were unable to move out to camps that were 1.2 metres underwater while all relief convoys were also held up by the heavy flooding. 

    Pounding rain also drenched the wrecked city of Banda Aceh, adding to the misery of homeless survivors and heightening fears of waterborne diseases that could take many more lives.


    Relief update


    Meanwhile, worldwide donations to aid those battered by the huge waves is now approaching $1 billion. A steady stream of foreign military aircraft have also touched down in the centre of the disaster, Aceh province on the northern tip of Indonesia's Sumatra island.


    But supplies are bottlenecking and officials acknowledged distribution networks were not in place to deliver desperately needed supplies to the worst-hit areas.


    "The scale of the disaster is just too big," said Andi Mallarengen, spokesman for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who arrived in the provincial capital on his way to the shattered Sumatran fishing village of Meulaboh.


    "We can bring in the aid, food, but we need manpower to distribute them."


    Six days after the earthquake and tsunamis that ravaged 5000km of Asian and African coastline, the confirmed death toll passed 123,000, and five million people were homeless.


    In an even graver assessment, UN humanitarian chief Jan Egeland estimated the number of dead was approaching 150,000. "The vast majority of those are in Indonesia," he said on Friday, adding that the final toll would probably never be known.


    Toll rise


    India raised its official death toll on Saturday to 8942 - a jump of more than 1100. More than 7000 of the deaths occurred in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. In the island territories, the count was not complete and officials said at least 3754 people were missing.


    Thailand's number of dead also jumped, from 4560 to 4812, with just over half of them being foreign tourists. Another 6541 people were missing and Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has warned most of them are likely dead.


    "The scale of the disaster is just too big. We can bring in the aid, food, but we need manpower to distribute them"

    Andi Mallarengen,
    Indonesian presidential spokesman

    In the hardest-hit country, Indonesia, the official death toll stood at more than 80,000, but officials said it could reach 100,000.


    "We mourn, we cry and our hearts weep to witness thousands of victims sprawled everywhere," said President Susilo. "We witness those survivors still living in desperation and sinking into sadness and confusion."


    Indonesia has called an emergency summit in the capital, Jakarta, on Thursday. Japan's Kyoto News agency reported that Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi would attend.

    Nearly 14,000 people were confirmed missing in Sri Lanka after its tsunami disaster and the country's official death toll could jump to more than 42,000. 
    Sri Lanka assessment

    The number of people missing had substantially risen overnight from nearly 5000 to 13,976, the disaster management unit at the president's office said.
    "The bodies of the people missing are not yet found, so we cannot say that they are confirmed dead," an official with the unit said. Officially, 28,475 have been killed.
    President Chandrika Kumaratunga had on Thursday said that the death toll was set to jump as most of the missing people were likely to be declared dead in the next few days.
    Kumaratunga said that the missing were most likely to have perished in Sunday's devastation. Relief workers are still discovering bodies in remote areas they had previously been unable to reach due to the destruction of the roads. 



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