Annan visits hard-hit Maldives
From Senior U.N. Correspondent Richard Roth
(CNN) -- The December 26 tsunami has prompted the first visit by a U.N. Secretary General to the Maldives, a collection of 1200 tiny islands in the Indian Ocean.
U.N. leader Kofi Annan has toured the nation's disaster control center, and will visit the hardest hit islands by sea plane.
Maldives President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom met with Annan, and displayed a humanitarian streak after the tsunami by pardoning several opponents charged with treason.
The government now wants international assistance to rebuild its essential fishing and tourism industries.
The islands -- renowned for their beautiful beaches and high-quality scuba diving -- were sitting ducks for the tsunamis.
"It's very very low-lying. I mean, the highest point is two meters," British diplomat Philip Ryalh said.
"The water seems to have rushed straight over instead of building up ... (which resulted in) destruction."
While the country's human toll is comparatively low -- 82 dead and 26 missing -- all 200 of the inhabited islands suffered damage, and a third of the nation's population have been severely affected in some way.
"Many islands have been completely evacuated, which means there is nothing left. Completely nothing for the people," Maldives Finance Minister Mohammed Jaleel said.
There were 17,000 tourists in the Maldives when the tsunami struck. Now, just 400 a day appear.
The Maldives will be aiming to reverse those numbers, while holding a proper period of mourning.