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Tsunami Death Toll Could Reach 150,000

DW staff/AFP (jen, ncy)
January 1, 2005

Aid pledges for Asia's tsunami victims topped $1.6 billion Saturday, but the UN warned it would take weeks for help to reach many survivors and that the death toll would likely rise to 150,000.

The magnitude of the disaster is still unclearImage: AP

The United Nations warned the numbers killed by the wall of water could rise to 150,000, with the vast majority in Indonesia, although it said the true figure may never be known nearly a week after mammoth waves tore apart the coasts of the Indian Ocean.

The world's most powerful earthquake in 40 years that triggered the tsunamis has set off a chain reaction of donations, with governments and the public racing to contribute to help the millions of homeless.

"We are now counting new pledges by the hour. We're now between $1.1 billion (€813 million) and $1.2 billion," the UN's emergency relief coordinator, Jan Egeland, told reporters in New York before Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi pledged $500 million in grant aid for the countries badly affected by the disaster.

The UN is organizing a donor conference that will take place on Jan. 11 in Geneva.

Floods hinder aid

Flutkatastrophe in Asien Sri Lanka Überlebende und Hilfskräfte mit Jacken des Roten Kreuz
The Red Cross has set up a calling center in Sri Lanka which offers survivors of the quake an opportunity to call their loved ones for free.Image: AP

Flash floods crippled relief work in eastern Sri Lanka Saturday dealing a double blow to tsunami survivors as another 14,000 people were reported missing apart from the nearly 29,000 confirmed dead. At least 15 tsunami refugee camps were flooded after heavy overnight rains dumped 330 millimeters (13 inches) of water over the coastal region which was the hardest hit in last week's disaster, chief local administrator Herath Abeyweera said.

Abeyweera, who was in Ampara, 350 kilometers (218 miles) east of the capital, Colombo, said most of the access roads to the coastal district had been cut off by flooding that has also damaged several key bridges. He said a team of 20 Japanese medical staff was unable to move out to camps that were four feet (1.2 meters) under water while all relief convoys were also held up by the river flooding.

Nach der Flut drohen jetzt die Seuchen / Indonesien
A man covers his nose to avoid the stench of corpses near a village destroyed by the tidal waves in Banda Aceh, IndonesiaImage: AP

Aid workers around the region continued to bury thousands of victims as quickly as possible to control the spread of disease as exposed bodies decay in the heat and humidity. Authorities say many survivors of the tsunamis could die from dysentery, cholera and typhoid fever caused by contaminated food and water. The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that disease could end up killing as many people as the tidal wave itself.

Germany's Bundeswehr sent personnel to Indonesia Saturday to pave the way for a military hospital it plans to set up in the badly affected Aceh province.

Missing tourists

The foreign ministry in Berlin was bracing on Saturday for a death toll that could rank as the worst loss of German life since World War II.

"Hope weakens day by day," foreign ministry state secretary Klaus Scharioth said.

Some 5,000 foreign tourists, among them more than 1,000 Germans, were listed as missing on Saturday. The foreign ministry in Berlin reported that 34 Germans have been confirmed killed by the tsunami. Though that number has not increased for days, Scharioth said that didn't necessarily mean the end was in sight. Instead, he said, merely collecting samples from corpses for DNA analysis would require days.

More than 2,230 foreign tourists perished in the floods.

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