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Washing away tidal debris: disease is now the biggest threatImage: AP

Aid Flows as Tsunami Death Toll Rises

DW staff (ncy)
January 2, 2005

The confirmed number killed in the earthquake and tsunamis that hit Asian shorelines last week passed 130,000 Sunday, as more bodies were recovered in Sri Lanka and Thailand. Sixty Germans were also confirmed dead.


Indonesia has borne the brunt of last Sunday's catastrophe, with a health ministry official putting the country's dead at 79,940 with entire coastal villages disappearing under the wall of water.

But this could go up substantially. The health ministry cautioned that there could be 100,000 deaths in Aceh and North Sumatra, but has given up on delivering exact numbers because the death toll continues to rise so quickly.

UN emergency relief coordinator Jan Egeland said the true figure across Asia may never be known.

"What we see is that the figures may be approaching 150,000 dead. The vast majority of those are in Indonesia and Aceh, which is the least assessed area because of logistical constraints," Egeland told reporters.

"It may therefore rise further," he said. "We will never, ever have the absolute, definite figure because there are many nameless fishermen and villages that have just gone, and we have no chance of finding out how many they were."

Flutkatastrophe Erdbeben Khao Lak Thailand Elefanten helfen beim Wiederaufbau der zerstörten Infrastruktur
Clearing debris near Bang Nieng beach in Khao Lak, Thailand on SundayImage: AP

In Sri Lanka, 29,729 were confirmed killed by the tidal waves, while more than 16,000 people were injured, the president's office said. The number of people missing was revised down from nearly 14,000 Saturday to 5,240 Sunday, but there was no immediate explanation for this.

The official toll in India rose Sunday to at least 14,962, although this includes 5,511 people the government says are missing and presumed dead. In Thailand interior ministry figures Sunday put the death toll at 4,985 -- 2,457 foreigners, 2,252 Thais and 276 whose nationality could not be determined. The number listed as missing had fallen sharply to 3,810 compared with 6,424 previously.

In Myanmar at least 90 people were killed, according to the UN, but the real toll was expected to be far higher. At least 75 people were killed and another 42 were confirmed missing in the tourist paradise of the Maldives, President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom said. Sixty-six people were dead in Malaysia, most of them in Penang, police said. In Bangladesh a father and child were killed after a tourist boat capsized in large waves, officials said.

Fatalities also occurred on the east coast of Africa where 176 people were declared dead in Somalia, 10 in Tanzania and one in Kenya.

Flutkatastrophe Erdbeben Takuapa Thailand Helfer schützen sich mit Masken und Handschuhen vor drohenden Seuchen Seuchengefahr Epedemien
Thai volunteers don protective cloths for working in a makeshift morgue at Yan Yao temple in Takuapa, Thailand on Sunday.Image: AP

European casualties

Europeans were bracing for the grim prospect that thousands of their nationals may have been lost for ever.

In Sweden, Finland and Norway, which between them account for 87 confirmed dead and 4,700 missing, the loss of European life was being felt most keenly. The three Nordic countries held an official day of mourning on Saturday and Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson warned that grim news was inevitable in the days and weeks to come.

"Never has it been so difficult to welcome a new year, a year that for many in our country will be the most difficult," Persson said as the Swedish death toll rose to 59 and the number missing stood at 3,500.

The number of Germans confirmed dead rose to 60 and well over 1,000 were still missing, Foreign Ministry State Secretary Klaus Scharioth told reporters in Berlin on Sunday. He warned that "there was no reason for any great optimism" that the missing would ever be found. He has asked relatives to supply DNA samples rather than photographs as this could be the only means of identification.

Scharioth said Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer plans to travel to the disaster area this week to see the situation there for himself.

Other European countries were also counting their dead. Italy has confirmed 18 dead but a further 660 are missing, mainly in Thailand, while France said its death toll would probably exceed 150. Among other countries, nine Russians are believed to have died, while another 35 are missing.

Private donations soar

The extraordinary response to the disaster from the public has taken charity and aid officials by surprise. Swedes have pledged nearly 400 million kronor (€44.3 million), a record sum for the country of nine million people, aid organizations said on Sunday. German aid organizations and media had collected over €27.8 million on Sunday.

Europe has sent teams of aid workers to Thailand, Sri Lanka and Indonesia to help the victims of the floods and to try to prevent disease spreading. Many European initiatives are concentrating on the Indonesian province of Aceh, the worst-hit area in a country where up to 100,000 people were feared killed.

France said it was sending a helicopter carrier and a frigate to provide medical aid in Aceh, and the German army expects to have a rescue center up and running there within a week.

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