The threat of disease decimating survivors of Asia's tsunami has receded but aid agencies remain on their guard, the UN said yesterday as doctors reported children dying from pneumonia. \nIndonesia found almost 4,000 more bodies of tsunami victims, pushing the global death toll from the disaster above 160,000. Despite that increase, signs of recovery were emerging. \nLife was starting to return to normal in towns and villages on battered Indian Ocean coasts with markets reopening and fishermen casting their nets at sea again after the Dec. 26 earthquake and the tsunami that it triggered. \nWorries were fading that the death toll could double if disease broke out in afflicted areas, but aid agencies said they must keep up their guard and were acting to prevent malaria in the Indonesian province of Aceh that was worst hit by the wave. \n"There are no alarm bells ringing, but we cannot slacken our efforts. The threat is still there," Margareta Wahlstrom, the UN special coordinator for the disaster, told reporters in Jakarta after returning from Banda Aceh, the provincial capital. \nIn Indonesia at least 110,000 people died and many thousands more are missing after the earthquake off the coast of northern Sumatra island. \nMore than 30,000 died in Sri Lanka, over 15,000 in India and 5,300 in Thailand. With deaths also reported in Malaysia, the Maldives, Bangladesh, Myanmar and east African nations, the total stands at more than 162,000. \nTo try to build a buffer against future tsunamis, Indonesia will replant swathes of mangrove forest along its vulnerable coastline, Forestry Minister Malam Sambat Kaban said. \nEnvironmental experts say Southeast Asia's mangroves -- many of which have been ripped out to make room for shrimp and fish farms -- could have helped to slow the tsunami by providing a barrier between waves and land. \nKaban said Indonesia would revive its mangrove coastal defenses, earmarking 600,000 hectares for revitalization. \n"The tsunami in Aceh made us see the need to speed up this process," Kaban said. \nAbout 700,000 people were made homeless in Aceh and many survivors were now living in makeshift camps. \nThe World Health Organization said initial fears of epidemics were easing because most survivors now had access either to clean water or water-purification tablets. \nThe global response to the disaster has been unprecedented. Governments have promised US$5.5 billion in aid, with individuals and corporations pledging at least US$2 billion more. \nUN Secretary General Kofi Annan yesterday said he will appoint a special envoy to oversee relief and reconstruction efforts. \n"In order to ensure the maximum coherence and coordination in the relief and reconstruction efforts, I have decided to appoint a special envoy," Annan told a news conference in Port Louis, Mauritius, on the sidelines of a UN conference on small islands. \nA UN donors' conference in Geneva this week raised some US$717 million to assist the 12 countries battered by the devastating tsunami. \nUN agencies are also leading the effort to set up a global warning system that Annan said should not just cover tsunamis but also other threats such as storm surges and cyclones. \nElsewhere, US President George W. Bush said US aid efforts following the tsunami would improve the US' image. \n"In ... responding to the tsunami, many in the Muslim world have seen a great compassion in the American people," Bush said in an interview with ABC News to be aired yesterday. \nBush, initially criticized for a slow and limited US response to the tsunami, said he was "very impressed ... by how quickly we have responded." \nAlso see story: \nDisagreement delays the identification of victims
SCHEDULE: The delegation is due to meet with President Tsai Ing-wen this morning and witness the signing of an MOU on bilateral health cooperation in the afternoon US Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar yesterday arrived in Taipei aboard a US government plane at the head of a delegation that is the highest-level visit by a US official since Washington switched diplomatic recognition to China in 1979. Azar’s flight landed at Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) at 4:48pm, nearly one hour earlier than scheduled, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. The apron where it landed is reserved for military aircraft, the Songshan Air Force Base Command said. The members of Azar’s delegation included HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec, HHS Chief of Staff Brian
CHINESE FIGHTERS: Beijing marked the US Cabinet member’s visit by briefly sending two warplanes across the median line of the Taiwan Strait yesterday morning President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday met with US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar in the highest-level official meeting between the two nations since 1979. “It is a true honor to be here to convey a message of strong support and friendship from [US] President [Donald] Trump to Taiwan,” Azar said during the open portion of his courtesy call to the Presidential Office, which was streamed live online before Tsai and Azar held a closed-door meeting. “Taiwan’s response to COVID-19 has been among the most successful in the world, and that is a tribute to the open, transparent,
PARTNERSHIP AND LEARNING: A Princeton University health policy researcher said that the nation would be a ‘treasure trove’ of information for the US health chief US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar on Friday said he wants to learn about Taiwan’s “incredibly effective” response to COVID-19, even though the nation did things that the US has fumbled, such as having a unified strategy and citizens willing to wear masks. Azar leads a US delegation arriving today for a three-day visit to Taiwan. They are to meet with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and health system leaders, and Azar is to give a speech to public health graduates. “The message of this trip is about Taiwan,” Azar said in an interview, deflecting a question about China.
Taiwanese-independence advocates yesterday accused former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of breaking national security laws and called on the judiciary to investigate after his statement that “China will wage a battle, which will be quick and will be the last battle for Taiwan.” Ma showed his true colors “as a mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party” in his speech on Monday when he said the “first battle will be the last,” Taiwan Republic Office (台灣國辦公室) director Chilly Chen (陳峻涵) said. “Ma is threatening Taiwanese by claiming that Beijing will launch a quick invasion of Taiwan, but that the US military will have no