Thu, Jan 06, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Taiwan left out of donor confab

CINDERELLA Despite Taiwan's being one of the top 10 donors, it was not allowed a seat at the summit to discuss history's largest relief operation

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER IN TAIPEI , WITH AP, BANDA ACEH, INDONESIA

An aerial shot shows flattened houses near the sea coast of Banda Aceh, yesterday. US Secretary of State Colin Powell toured Indonesia's tsunami-ravaged Aceh province yesterday and said the devastation wrought by the disaster was the worst he had ever seen.

PHOTO: AFP

Taiwan has not been invited to a summit of major donors to the relief operation in the wake of the tsunami which devastated countries around the Indian Ocean on Dec. 26.

This is in spite of Taiwan's being one of top 10 donors of aid, having pledged US$50 million to the relief effort.

While the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the Indonesian government which is hosting the summit that it would like to attend, Jakarta didn't even bother to reply.

Ministry spokesman Michel Lu (呂慶龍) declined to comment on whether Indonesia, which received considerable aid from Taiwan since the disaster, has treated Taiwan unfairly by barring it from the conference.

"We simply want to express our strong hope that we can attend the meeting," he said.

Taiwan has concentrated its relief efforts on Thailand and Indonesia and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen (陳唐山) called on the international community to allow Taiwan to join the Jakarta conference, at least in the capacity of an observer.

Meanwhile destruction on Indonesia's tsunami-wracked Sumatra island is the worst US Secretary of State Colin Powell has ever seen, the battle-seasoned war veteran said as he prepared for a meeting of world leaders to coordinate history's largest relief operation.

"I can not begin to imagine the horror that went through the families and all of the people who heard this noise and then had their lives snuffed out by this wave," Powell said yesterday after flying over flattened villages along Sumatra's northern coast, which was home to two-thirds of the nearly 150,000 killed across Asia.

"I've been in war and I've been through a number of hurricanes, tornados and other relief operations, but I've never seen anything like this."

So far US$2 billion has been pledged to relief efforts in 11 countries hit by the Dec. 26 quake off the western coast of Indonesia that triggered waves causing deaths as far away as East Africa.

But the challenges are enormous, with millions homeless and threatened by disease. The UN said it will build camps on Sumatra for up to 500,000 people.

Haggard, dehydrated tsunami survivors have been flooding hospitals. Psychologists were struggling to help children cope with the unspeakable tragedy. Aftershocks added to the threats, with another strong quake felt yesterday, rattling the region but causing no known injuries.

Powell was one of the first to arrive in Indonesia ahead of today's donor's conference, where world leaders will iron out problems coordinating the relief operation and discuss the need for a tsunami warning system for the Indian Ocean. One already exists in the Pacific.

From an altitude of a few hundred meters, Powell and his entourage saw not a tree or building standing along the coast. City block after city block in Banda Aceh, the main city on northern Sumatra, had been swept clean. A large ship lay on its side, half submerged in water and mud.

The former US army general said he saw "how the wave came ashore, pushing everything in its path -- cars, ships, freighters overturned -- all the way up to the foothills, and then starting up the foothills until finally the waves came to a stop."

Money has poured in from around the world, the largest share from Japan.

"I think Japan must do as much as it can to help," Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said, calling for companies in the world's second-largest economy to respond with donations to the kind of disaster seen "only once a century."

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