Sun, Jan 09, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Officials stop donations, call for tourists to return

DPA , SINGAPORE AND SYDNEY

Coordinators of the massive tsunami aid effort in Singapore called a halt yesterday to public donations, with up to a third of items having to be discarded, including stained underwear, bathing suits and high-heeled shoes given for tsunami victims.

Kwek Chee Kian, director of Singapore's National Volunteer and Philanthropic Center (NVPC), said food donations that would expire within a couple months also must be removed from stocks of relief aid.

Coordination

The pause is needed for a clearer picture of needs can come from the disaster areas, particularly Indonesia, Kwek said. The NVPC is coordinating volunteer efforts in the city-state.

Warehouse space is 80 percent full, with items flowing in faster than they can be shipped out, he said.

Mercy Relief Manager Izuan Rais told The Straits Times that more "right" things are needed, including body bags, vaccines and tents.

It will stop collections tomorrow.

Cathay Pacific, DHL, Danzas Air & Ocean and airfreight company Airmark Aviation have transported for free some 78 tonnes of supplies from Singapore to devastated Sri Lanka and Indonesia's Aceh province on northern Sumatra.

Volunteers

"Volunteers will be most needed at the later phase of reconstruction to help rebuild communities and infrastructure," NSPC chief executive officer Tan Chee Koon was quoted as saying.

He cited one group, which enlisted the help of Singapore Airlines in flying ultrasound and X-ray scanners from Bangalore, Beijing, Seoul and Kuala Lumpur via Singapore to hospitals in Indonesia and Thailand, in hopes that such spirit can be sustained.

A mobile air traffic control tower was flown Friday from Singapore to Banda Aceh Airport at the request of Indonesian civil aviation authorities to enable more flights carrying supplies to come in and out of the province.

The airport's own control tower was partially damaged by the Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunami, reducing the number of flights it could handle.

The tower, jointly owned by the Singapore Armed Forces and Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, has its own air traffic control cabin, hydraulic lifting system, generator and trailers, a statement said.

Its control cabin, which can be raised up to 5m above ground, accommodates six people and has four operating consoles for flight controllers.

The airport in Banda Aceh is the main landing point for aircraft carrying humanitarian supplies in Aceh.

Travel

The best thing foreigners can do to speed up recovery in the tsunami-affected regions of Asia is to take a holiday there, travel agents meeting in Australia were told yesterday.

The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) gathering in Brisbane was told that staying away from the region would worsen the plight of the hundreds of thousands of victims.

PATA president Peter de Jong urged Australians to visit their neighboring countries and pump money into their sagging economies.

"The human loss of this tragedy is unprecedented," de Jong told Australia's AAP news agency. "However, the negative impact will only be exacerbated if tourists cancel or postpone their visits."

Boost economies

He said: "Now more than ever, Indian Ocean countries want you to come visit. Not only will tourism maintain jobs and boost local economies, it will also be a sign of support and solidarity, giving new hope and confidence to those who have begun to rebuild their lives and livelihoods."

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