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Disease main threat as relief pours in
Updated: 2005-01-04 10:46

The waves have barely receded but now the danger is not from the water but from disease.

Almost immediately after the earthquake and the ensuing tsunami, organizations around the world began warning of possible epidemics, saying that disease is now the most pressing danger.

UNICEF said it had reports of children dying of pneumonia in Aceh. Many in refugee camps were sick from a variety of ailments, as well as terrible wounds sustained when the tsunami hit.

In Banda Aceh and other towns, thousands of rotten corpses still lay in the streets. A Health Ministry official said he had no reports of a cholera outbreak, but the risk was very high.

Topping needs on a regional level was water and sanitation equipment to head off expected outbreaks of water-borne infections, spread through tainted community water supplies.

UN health officials say disease could kill maybe 50,000.

More than 100,000 people are living in temporary shelters and camps in Indonesia alone, many suffering from diarrhea, fever, respiratory infections, headaches and stomach problems.

However, affected nations, working with international aid agencies, private relief groups and donor governments, were easing some early bottlenecks and improving their capacity to get in goods on a daily basis to serve the estimated 5 million people requiring some form of aid.

Logistics centres were operating in Rome, Jakarta and Sumatra, the UN's Jan Egeland said, and a command-and-control centre at Thailand's U-Tapao military air base was co-ordinating all the civil and military flights involved in the relief effort.

Germany army colonel Jurgen Canders arrived in Banda Aceh on Monday with a nine-member medical unit. He said the team included tropical disease and public health specialists, and its mobile capability would allow them to conduct surgery in remote areas.

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