Fri, Jan 28, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Still no aid for some tsunami survivors

AP , GALLE, SRI LANKA

Tsunami survivors yesterday began their second month since the epic disaster across southern Asia, with signs that many are frustrated over their slow return to normal life.

"We have not received any assistance yet," read a banner strung between plastic tents housing survivors in Sri Lanka's southern coastal city of Galle.

Leading British charity Oxfam said that too many aid organizations without adequate skills are complicating the relief work.

In Sri Lanka, Oxfam said, some new houses are being built too close together, leading to potential sanitation problems.

Contributions Pending

The aid group also said governments have contributed only half the US$977 million emergency aid requested by the UN even though they pledged US$912 million for the immediate aftermath of the massive Dec. 26 quake and the tsunami it spawned in the Indian Ocean.

In rebuilding Indonesia's worst-hit province of Aceh, environmentalists are warning aid groups not to use wood illegally logged from the province's dense tropical forests, which were left largely untouched by the disaster.

They say illegal logging could upset the ecosystem and cause more natural disasters by sparking landslides.

New Zealand ordered an investigation yesterday into reports that first appeared in the US magazine Newsweek that its air force relief flights out of Aceh ferried refugees forced to pay bribes to Indonesian officials to flee the devastation.

The flights to Jakarta were supposed to carry people that Indonesian officials said needed urgent evacuation, Foreign Minister Phil Goff said.

Bribery

He ordered officials to take up the issue with Indonesian authorities, adding he was confident New Zealanders were not involved in bribery.

A month after killer waves swept away more than 140,000 lives and ravaged coastlines around the Indian Ocean, survivors on Wednesday quietly remembered the tragedy and carried on with the struggle to rebuild their lives.

Sri Lankans lit candles and chanted prayers for the dead, and mourners on a Thai island launched two new fishing boats in a first step toward rebuilding the devastated local fleet.

In Indonesia's Aceh, there were no memorials. Instead, officials said a proper remembrance was to send children back to school for the first official classes since the tragedy.

The students found schoolrooms full of dirt, and that most of their classmates were gone forever.

The disaster's full death toll is still unknown -- and probably never will be. Workers still discover bodies daily, and many more victims were washed out to sea.

Differing government tallies in Sri Lanka and Indonesia, the two hardest hit countries, have put the total number of dead in 11 countries between 144,000 and 178,000. As many as 147,000 people are missing -- many of them presumed dead -- raising the possibility that more than 300,000 died.

But remarkable stories of survival continue to emerge.

In his first interview since being rescued on Jan. 19, Michael Mangal, a 40-year-old Nicobarese tribesman, described his 25-day ordeal as he prayed and waited for death after the tsunami killed everyone else on his tiny island.

He lived on coconut milk and meat, thought of the now-missing woman he loved, and fretted about bad spirits.

Finally one day, he heard the chugging of a distant motor boat. He took off his underwear and waved to the men who would rescue him, dazed and naked.

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