Twelve die as bridge falls
Tidal waves killed about 12 people when a bridge collapsed on the southern tip of Myanmar, fishing industry officials said yesterday. The deaths made Myanmar the ninth country to be struck by waves sent thundering across the Bay of Bengal by the earthquake off Sumatra. The deaths occurred on Sunday at Kawthaung, opposite the city of Ranong in southern Thailand, the officials said. They said the fate of fishing trawlers out at sea at the time of the tidal waves was not yet known. State-controlled television reports warned that aftershocks were likely to follow for three days and warned the public to take precautionary measures such as not standing under tall buildings.
■ Aid Efforts
International help offered
International aid efforts got under way, with private, government and UN aid teams heading to southern Asian countries devastated by tidal waves. Pope John Paul II lent his moral voice to calls for the international community to help. The International Red Cross in Geneva issued an initial appeal for donations of 7.5 million Swiss francs (US$6.7 million) in cash, relief goods or services for the next six months. "Thousands have already died because of the flooding, but unless there is a rapid response to the emergency, many more people could die in the coming days," said Jasmine Whitbread, international director of the aid group Oxfam.
Danger of epidemics
The UN warned yesterday of epidemics within days unless health systems in southern Asia can cope after more than 23,000 people were killed and hundreds of thousands left homeless by a giant tsunami. "This may be the worst national disaster in recent history because it is affecting so many heavily populated coastal areas ... so many vulnerable communities," the UN's Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland said. "The longer term effects may be as devastating as the tidal wave or the tsunami itself ... Many more people are now affected by polluted drinking water. We could have epidemics within a few days unless we get health systems up and running."
Doctors sent to Sri Lanka
Japan yesterday sent emergency doctors to Sri Lanka and promised more aid was on the way as it searched for at least 43 Japanese people unaccounted for. The government mobilized its diplomats to search for survivors amid reports of Japanese casualties in the tragedy on the Indian Ocean coastlines, which are popular with Japanese tourists during the year-end holidays. An emergency survey of 17 major Japanese travel agencies said 43 of their 1,305 customers who went to the affected region were unaccounted for.
Death toll increases
At least 43 people have been confirmed dead and 63 reported missing in the popular tourist destination Maldives yesterday, the government said. The Maldives High Commis-sioner Mohamed Asim in Colombo said the airport in capital Male was now open. Among the victims was one British tourist, he said. Pres-ident Maumoon Abdul Gay-oom has declared a state of emergency in the archi-pelago nation, his official Web site said.
Officials start Kashmir talks
The foreign secretaries from India and Pakistan began two-day formal talks in Islamabad yesterday on the contentious issue of Kashmir and peace and security as part of the ongoing composite dialogue between the two neighbors. The foreign secretaries were to review the progress of the entire dialogue process and find possible ways to move ahead, according to comments by Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman Masood Khan before the meeting. Pakistan is likely to float fresh ideas for the solution of the Kashmir dispute, as well as some new measures to build confidence in the field of nuclear and conventional arms.