Aid trucks roll into Asia's tsunami-hit areas
Aid trucks loaded with food, medicines and body bags rolled into tsunami-hit areas across Asia and aircraft dropped supplies to cut-off villages as a huge relief operation finally swung into gear Friday.
But military flights disgorging tons of emergency supplies at major Asian airports were creating logjams, threatening to hinder one of the world's biggest aid operations.
A lack of fuel was also holding up relief efforts in worst-hit Aceh province on Indonesia's Sumatra island, near the epicenter of Sunday's 9.0 magnitude quake that triggered the killer waves.
U.S. military transport aircraft were landing at Indonesia's northern city of Medan Friday delivering supplies to be trucked to neighboring Aceh province, where perhaps more than 100,000 people died, Indonesia's health minister said Friday.
Aid deliveries to Aceh and many other areas have been hindered in recent days due to lack of fuel, impassable roads and downed bridges. The trucks will take up to 16 hours to reach Aceh's battered provincial capital Banda Aceh.
Australian and New Zealand military aircraft were flying directly to Banda Aceh, delivering troops and emergency supplies and evacuating people.
"The planes are going flat out," Australian army Major Grant King told Reuters at Banda Aceh airport.
"The aid is getting out," he said. "People at the extremities are probably getting it, but there are limitations."
The United Nation's children body UNICEF said emergency supplies of medicines, tarpaulins and hygiene kits to support 200,000 people were headed for Aceh.
But Australian Defense Minister Robert Hill warned that so much aid was now pouring in that airports were straining to cope.
"We are already witnessing a logjam at key airfields," Hill said, as an Australian amphibious navy ship headed for Aceh with 100 army engineers, earthmovers and helicopters.
Singapore has sent a landing ship tank, four helicopters and medical and rescue teams to Indonesia.
The Thai air force said it could no longer handle the flood of donations from the public. "Our three warehouses are fully occupied with more than enough canned food, bottled water and used clothes," Captain Pongsak Semachai told Reuters.
US President Bush, criticized for a slow reaction to the disaster, said he would send a delegation led by Secretary of State Colin Powell to Asia Sunday to assess the need for U.S. assistance. The USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier and a flotilla of ships were steaming to Thailand.
ICE NEEDED TO STORE BODIES
U.S. military aircraft were also flying into Sri Lanka, where the death toll stands at more than 28,000. Trucks were rolling out to relief camps scattered along the coast, but there too flooded roads strewn with debris were hindering deliveries.
"The situation is grim. Many villages have not yet received aid. Many areas are inaccessible. People are desperate for food, water and shelter," said Anjali Kwatra, leader of Sri Lanka's Christian Aid emergency assessment team.
In Thailand -- where thousands of rotting corpses, many of them of foreign tourists, were stacked in Buddhist temples -- trucks were not only bringing supplies for the living, but also for the dead. One aid group alone was sending 1,000 body bags and 4,400 pounds of formalin for preserving bodies at the Thai island resort of Phuket. The United Nations was providing $50,000 to buy more body bags and formalin.
Thailand's Natural Resources and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti appealed for dry ice and refrigerated containers to store thousands of rotting bodies.
SCHOOL SUPPLIES FOR CHILDREN
Aid workers were still struggling to deal with the dead, burying corpses scattered around towns, villages and on beaches.
"Many bodies are rotting and still left untouched up to this morning," said World Vision's Jimmy Nadapdap in Banda Aceh.
Aid workers were trying to dislodge corpses and dead animals from water drainpipes and wells in a race against time to restore clean water supplies. Aid groups fear that without clean water supplies the spread of disease could double the death toll. In India, UNICEF had begun moving more than 2,175 water storage tanks, each with a capacity of 110 gallons, to relief camps along the south coast.
Because of the sheer devastation caused by the tsunami, the relief operation must not only cater for immediate medical and food needs, but also for everyday items.
In Sri Lanka, aid groups were providing 25,000 personal hygiene packs for women and girls and in Thailand, 600 sets of school supplies were distributed to children.
UNICEF says a third of the tsunami victims may be children and thousands more have been left orphaned.
World Vision was setting up 20 children's centers in Indonesia, which would include special tents where traumatized children can receive physical and psychological support.