World leaders in Jakarta for tsunami crisis talks
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and world leaders arrived in Jakarta on Wednesday to try to deal with Asia's tsunami crisis and a $2.3 billion humanitarian relief operation, the biggest since World War II.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao left Beijing Wednesday for Indonesia to
attend the international conference on how to cope with the aftermath of the
devastating tsunami. In Jakarta, Wen is expected to exchange views with
leaders from related countries and international organizations on relief
efforts, reconstruction and disaster prevention. He will also meet with leaders
from countries that severely hit by the tsunamis.
As aid workers struggle to feed and shelter millions of survivors who are still burying their dead 10 days after a tsunami killed 150,000 people, world leaders will meet on Thursday to seek an answer for the question -- how can the world prevent such a catastrophe ever occurring again?
Indonesia, the worst-hit nation with almost two-thirds of the dead, hopes the one-day summit will agree to set up a regional tsunami warning system, which experts say could have saved many lives.
Leaders from 26 nations and humanitarian organizations will also look at the massive reconstruction needed to rebuild the shattered lives of millions of people in six Indian Ocean nations.
"Tomorrow's conference is not only for Indonesia but for all countries that have suffered from the earthquake," said Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. "And of course we do hope that tomorrow there will be a concrete result in the mechanism of how to assist countries that are to be assisted."
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said coordinating the aid effort was a key agenda item.
The world has pledged $2.278 billion in aid as hundreds of tons of emergency supplies of medicines, food, clean water and shelter floods into tsunami-hit areas by air, sea and road.
Annan is expected to announce a major U.N. tsunami appeal at the Jakarta conference, which will also discuss the possibility of an immediate freeze of debt payments by affected countries.
But some analysts say concrete long-term rehabilitation and reconstruction plans depend on detailed assessments difficult to make at a time when thousands of the dead are not yet buried and some isolated areas have only just been reached.
The International Monetary Fund has said calculating the economic impact of the disaster would have to wait until immediate humanitarian needs are met.
The relief effort has faced enormous hurdles. The giant waves destroyed hospitals, damaged airports and washed away roads and bridges. And the sheer number of aid organizations flooding into Asia, big and small, has posed coordination problems and created bottlenecks.
The United Nations latest report on the relief operation said a lack of trucks, aircraft, boats, warehouses and operating airstrips were holding up aid to survivors around the Indian Ocean rim. It also cited a lack of coordination among aid groups.
Scores of military aircraft and navy ships and thousands of troops from the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, India, Germany and Japan deployed to tsunami relief have sped up the relief operation in recent days.
U.S. Seahawk helicopters buzz in and out of Banda Aceh, the devastated provincial capital of Indonesia's Aceh province, ferrying aid to isolated survivors.
Giant military transport planes disgorge emergency supplies, including military field hospitals, needed to treat hundreds of badly injured whose wounds are now becoming infected.
Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda said the tsunami disaster meant an Indonesian proposal for an ASEAN standby military force to deal with humanitarian disasters should now be acted on.
In Sri Lanka, the second-hardest hit nation, rains that had caused fresh flooding and bogged down trucks, let up and the United Nations said many districts were now accessible by main roads, except for parts of the country's east coast.
In Indonesia, aid groups struggled to reach areas for the first time since the Dec. 26 tsunami. They were using boats to search for survivors on the west coast of Sumatra, an island the size of Florida, but many small ports have been destroyed or badly damaged.
The United Nations latest report on Indonesian relief efforts said there had been reports of piracy off Sumatra's west and east coasts.
Aid groups were also turning their attention to the longer term reconstruction effort.
"It is our experience in previous emergencies donors want their money spent immediately. What everyone has to understand is that it is going to take years to rebuild what these people have lost," said A. John Watson, president of CARE Canada.