■ Sri Lanka
Some tsunami victims raped
A teenager who escaped death but was left orphaned and homeless by the Asian tsunami met yet one more agony: gang rape, one of several cases of child abuse being investigated in the disaster zone, an official said. Of all the human tragedies emerging from the worst natural disaster in decades, sexual abuse of vulnerable children in refugee camps must be among the most shocking. But experts say it's not uncommon in times of conflict and trauma. "When there is displacement and chaos, the possibility of this type of behavior is higher," Harendra de Silva, head of the National Child Protection Authority, said Saturday. With nearly 1 million losing their homes, Sri Lanka has immediate concerns of survival, rolling out relief trucks as cargo planes ferry food, drinking water and medical supplies from donor nations.
Relief worker killed in crash
A Singaporean leading an aid convoy to tsunami-hit southern Thailand was killed after the vehicle he was travelling in crashed, the Sunday Times reported. Richard Fong, 45, died after his Land Rover crashed in Malaysia's North-South highway, 60km from the Thai border. Two doctors who were among the 32-car convoy tried unsuccessfully to resuscitate Fong before he was declared dead. The mission to deliver relief and medical supplies to southern Thailand is still going ahead despite the accident, a member of the convoy said.
Ex-king warned of disaster
Former king Norodom Sihanouk says an astrologer warned him that an "ultra-catastrophic cataclysm" would strike, but that his country would be spared if proper rituals were conducted. "My wife and I decided to spend several thousand dollars to organize these ceremonies so our country and our people could be spared such a catastrophe," Sihanouk, who abdicated last year, wrote on his Web site. Cambodia was unscathed by the 10m tsunami waves generated by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake under the sea off Indonesia's Sumatra island on Dec.26. The waves rolled through the Indian Ocean, devastating coastal communities and killing roughly 127,000 people.
■ Hong Kong
Fake donation site found
Suspected fraudsters are trying to swindle tsunami relief donations by sending out purported fundraising e-mails, a Hong Kong daily reported yesterday. Relief organization Oxfam's Hong Kong branch informed local police about the fake e-mails, which call on recipients to deposit donations into a Cyprus bank account and fax the deposit receipts to an office in Spain, Ming Pao Daily News reported. The unauthorized e-mails describe the relief efforts of Oxfam and other relief groups, the report said. Oxfam Hong Kong has set up two local bank accounts to receive donations for relief efforts in areas struck by tsunamis after a magnitude 9.0 quake hit off the coast of Indonesia on Dec. 26.
Downer gives warning
Australians shouldn't travel to tsunami-hit areas across Asia in search of the bodies of loved ones killed last week because the rapid decomposition of corpses has made visual identifica-tion impossible, authorities said yesterday. "It will be only possible to get identification through dental records or DNA," Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said.
New toll system takes effect
Roving patrols caught at least 200 cheats Saturday on the first day of Germany's new highway tolls, but tens of thousands of truck drivers paid their dues, earning the Berlin government about 1 million euros on New Year's Day alone. Under the completely automated toll scheme, all trucks must pay an average 12.4 euro cents (US$0.17) per kilometer to use Germany's 12,000 kilometers of autobahn roads. There is no charge for cars. Germany's national truck transport agency sent out inspectors in cars Saturday to catch and fine cheats. The first free-rider was pulled over just 8 minutes after midnight.