Tsunami survivors flock to relief helicopters
More than $2 billion in aid pledges
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BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (CNN) -- Survivors in the remote Indonesian town of Keude Teunom swarmed U.S. military helicopters ferrying water, medicine and other supplies Saturday to devastated areas of the country hard to reach by road.
Dozens of survivors ran across the mud-covered earth to reach the choppers. Most of the town in the Aceh province has been destroyed. The only buildings left standing are shells of what previously existed.
"Aceh has drowned. We are finished. There is nothing," one survivor in the village on the west coast of Sumatra said.
Another man said simply, "Thank you, thank you."
One helicopter brought milk and nutritional supplements. Another brought a medical team to assess the survivors. Other helicopters were due to bring in water and other supplies.
A CNN correspondent who was on one of the military helicopters said the flight was startling.
"We passed town after town after town that looked like it had been literally flattened by an atomic bomb," Mike Chinoy said.
On the ground were scenes of "extraordinary desperation," he said.
The remote regions of Aceh province in Indonesia are the focus of attempts to save survivors and prevent the possible spread of disease, aid workers said.
The estimated death toll rose Saturday to more than 140,000 people in the 11 Asian and African nations affected by a magnitude 9 earthquake and resulting tsunamis nearly a week ago. About 80,000 of the dead were in Indonesia.
U.N. emergency relief coordinator Jan Egeland predicted Saturday that 5 million people ultimately will be affected by the disaster, including 1 million homeless.
Many of the early troubles that slowed relief efforts -- including fuel shortages and airport logjams -- have been fixed, a U.N. official said Saturday.
Authorities set up a staging ground at the Banda Aceh airport where Australian C-130s and Indonesian military planes brought in supplies.
U.S. UH-60 helicopters from the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, each able to carry more than 3,000 pounds of supplies, were then dispatched to the remotest regions.
The U.S. military also distributed aid to the remote western coastal town of Meulaboh, where Indonesia's government believes at least half of the 50,000 residents were wiped out by the tsunamis.
The massive waves left the town inaccessible by vehicle after destroying roads and bridges.
Meanwhile, about 200 U.S. Marines will deploy Sunday to Colombo, Sri Lanka, to help organize a relief effort, said Jeffrey Lunstead, the U.S. ambassador to the country.
Lunstead said he told Sri Lankan officials, "Tell us what you need and we will get it for you."
President George W. Bush said in his weekly radio address: "As the people of this devastated region struggle to recover, we offer our love and compassion, and our assurance that America will be there to help."
He said that U.S. flags will be flown at half-staff this week. (Full story)
Secretary of State Colin Powell and Bush's brother Jeb, governor of Florida, will lead a U.S. mission to the region Sunday. (Full story)
Eleven ships from the Indian navy were dispatched to Sri Lanka and military helicopters ferried in supplies, part of a $25 million aid effort.
The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said it would begin an emergency airlift on Sunday to Indonesia that should get 400 tons of supplies to 100,000 people in Aceh province.
Aid pledges top $2 billion
Pledges of international financial support for countries devastated by the Indian Ocean tsunamis have reached $2 billion, Egeland said Saturday.
The new amount, which includes contributions from many countries and the World Bank, is larger than what was pledged following all of the other humanitarian emergencies worldwide in 2004, he said.
Egeland said the United Nations needs cargo airplanes, 100 boats, several hundred trucks, 10 fully equipped base camps with staff support for the aid personnel and water treatment units.
Japan's prime minister said Saturday his country had increased its funding pledge to $500 million from $30 million. (Full story)
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan will attend a donor conference Thursday in Jakarta, Indonesia, the United Nations said Saturday. Afterward, he will visit stricken areas in the region, said U.N. spokesman Brendan Varma.
Annan will press for pledges then visit some of the tsunami-stricken areas in south Asia, Varma said. (Full story)
Aid workers are concerned primarily with providing clean water and proper sanitation, a World Health Organization official said Saturday.
"Given the very difficult conditions in which people are now living, it seems very, very likely that we're going to get some increases in disease and therefore death," said Dr. David Nabarro, executive director of Sustainable Development and Healthy Environments for the WHO.
A "second wave of death" could come if diseases such as cholera, pneumonia and malaria break out on a widespread scale, Nabarro said.
Relief workers in the eastern Sri Lankan provinces of Batticaloa and Ampara were hampered Saturday by flash floods that displaced about 3,000 residents from camps and makeshift homes.
Other developmentsThailand will set up a panel to discuss an early warning tsunami system, a government spokesman said. The panel will be led by a Thai meteorologist, said the spokesman, who did not give details when the panel would convene.Some New Year's celebrations around the world were canceled while others were somber. (Full story)
CNN's Mike Chinoy in Banda Aceh, Indonesia; Atika Shubert in Medan, Indonesia; Satinder Bindra in Galle, Sri Lanka contributed to this report. Journalist Iqbal Athas in Colombo, Sri Lanka, also contributed.