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Continuing Tsunami Coverage

Aired January 1, 2005 - 13:00   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR, LIVE CNN SPECIAL REPORT: It is 1:00 p.m. on the East Coast of the U.S., 1:00 a.m. in Thailand. I'm Daryn Kagan at CNN's global headquarters.

We continue this hour with CNN's extensive coverage of the tsunami disaster with our unmatched worldwide resources in bringing that story to you.

KAGAN: CNN has literally dozens of staffers on the ground in South Asia, covering the still growing aftermath of the tsunami disaster. And amid the growing tragedy, there are gripping stories of survival.

WHITFIELD: We'll take you into the heart of the disaster with some harrowing first-hand accounts. But, first, a look at the top stories.

KAGAN: U.S. aid supplies are being delivered into parts of Indonesia's Aceh province today. The devastated area pound by last week's tsunami has been largely cut off from the rest of the world. U.S. crews on military helicopters from the USS Abraham Lincoln brought in supplies and survivors rushed forward to grab what they could. CNN's Mike Chinoy was on the supply flight. He joins us live with the details in a few moments.

Things got tough for tsunami survivors in parts of Sri Lanka earlier today. Flash floods hit makeshift homes and refugee camps in two eastern provinces. No one was hurt but thousands of people were forced to flee into refugee camps in higher ground.

Nearly a million revelers gathered in New York's Times Square last night to watch the glittering ball drop and count down to the new year. It was the 100th annual such countdown in Times Square. Earlier, a moment of silence marked respects for tsunami victims.

President Bush calls for flags to fly at half staff next week to honor the victims and vows continued aid to the tsunami stricken areas. In his new year's day address, the president also expressed gratitude to members of the armed forces in the war on terror. He said, they and their families are heroes.

At the Vatican, Pope John Paul II remembered the tens of thousands of Asian tsunami victims during the new years greetings. The Pontis (ph) referred to the disaster as a terrible calamity and welcomed the growing international aid response.

And we begin with a quick overview of the tsunami damage and recovery in Southeast Asia. The overall death toll now stands at more than 140,000. It is still going up. Nearly 80,000 were killed in Indonesia alone. Aid workers are focusing on survivors, trying to prevent disease from claiming even more lives. And adding to the misery, flash floods in Sri Lanka have now wiped out makeshift homes and some of the aid camps. The flood drove an additional 3,000 people into refugee camps. So far more than $2 billion in international aid has been pledged. One day after the U.S. topped the donor list at $350 million, Japan upped its ante, promising $500 million in grants.

WHITFIELD: For nearly a week, many tsunami survivors have been cut off from the rest of the world, including any kind of help in parts of Indonesia. Areas hardest hit are just now being reached. Members of the U.S. military began airlifting supplies to Aceh province today where people are in desperate need.

CNN's Mike Chinoy flew exclusively with the first U.S. military crew to reach those survivors and he joins us now.

Mike, what were some of the items that they were able to deliver?

MIKE CHINOY, CNN CORRESPONDENT, LIVE CNN SPECIAL REPORT: They were going to deliver food, mainly milk and nutritional supplements and in one helicopter. That was the one that I went on. Another helicopter had a U.S. Navy medical team. And the destination was a small town on the west coast of Sumatra. The whole coastline was the most badly hit area. The tsunami just wiped out about 150 miles of coastline.

And when we flew to Banda Aceh, along the coast, mile after mile after mile in locations where there had been towns and villages, it was nothing. I mean, it literally looked like somebody had dropped an atomic bomb there. There were places where we knew there had been towns where all you could see was the foundations of buildings and, occasionally, a little stretch of road. Once in a while, we would see an intact structure. But that was really it.

And then we came to this one place, Acui Tanum (ph), that did have a few buildings intact. That was the destination. And as we were flying in, we saw people on the ground, survivors, who were waving their arms frantically at us and running in the direction that the chopper was flying. When the chopper finally landed, the men on board started offloading these cartons of milk and nutritional beverages and, within a matter of seconds, about 40 or 50 or 60 people ran towards the chopper, desperate, grabbing at the boxes, grabbing at us.

One of the guys on the chopper said to me afterwards that he was really worried that they were either going to jump on the helicopter itself or perhaps even there was a danger it could be pushed over. There was kind of a frenzy about it. It was kind of like a wild, ravenous pack going after this food because they'd had nothing for basically almost a whole week. And, obviously, had felt completely cut off. People surrounded me, talking very agitated way. One man saying, Aceh has drowned. We're finished. There's nothing here. And another man was almost crying was saying, thank you, thank you, thank you. But once we had distributed the food, made the decision to leave because we weren't sure what was going to happen with this crowd of very agitated, desperate survivors. So we took off and then this other chopper with the medical team came in and treated them.

And this is the kind of thing that is going to be repeated over and over in the days ahead. The American military has got helicopters based on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, which we also visited briefly after our initial stop. And they're going to be shuttling back and forth, leaving early in the morning, coming here to Banda Aceh where the supplies are loaded at the airport here and then going out to these remote areas. It's the only way to get there. You can't get there by road. All the bridges are down. The roads are wrecked. They're so remote.

But they are, obviously, still thousands and thousands of people who lived through the tsunami who are in desperate, desperate shape and this airlift is really the only way that they're going to be able to stay alive. It also represents a very important coordination between the American, Australian and Indonesian armed forces. Three forces that have often had uneasy relationships, particularly the Indonesian relationship with both the U.S. and the Australians. An indication of the scale of the disaster. Indonesia's president came to inspect the operation here at Banda Aceh airport before it began. And so this is the first day of a process that's going to go on for a long time.

WHITFIELD: All right. Mike Chinoy, thanks so much. And you have to wonder if they're going to come up with a better way of distributing those goods so that some families may not walk away with more than one box while others have nothing.

All right. Daryn.

KAGAN: Well, on to India. The Navy there is also on the move to help tsunami survivors. Eleven naval vessels and military helicopters are bringing tons of supplies to Sri Lanka. Satinder Bindra is there live via video phone with this exclusive report -- Satinder.

SATINDER BINDRA, CNN CORRESPONDENT, LIVE CNN SPECIAL REPORT: Daryn, this is India's largest naval relief mission that it's launched outside its waters. You mention 11 ships. These ships are spread all across the waters here in Sri Lanka. Seven of these ships actually just based outside Sri Lanka and three of them are near the coastal city of Galle, which was very hard hit. Two of the ships arrived today. One of the ships is a medical hospital. The other ship is carrying a lot of supplies and experts who can help the Sri Lankan economy to rebuild itself.

These Indian ships have so far delivered six tons of supplies and they have the capability to deliver about 20 tons. Most of the supplies are being delivered by helicopter. Also, India has now pledged $25 million to help Sri Lanka. And Indian officials say this money underscores the warm ties that exist between these two neighbors.


NIRUPAMA RAO, INDIAN HIGH COMM. TO SIR LANKA: There is a bond that ties ordinary Sri Lankans and ordinary Indians that is most heartening to witness, especially in times such as these. People in India have reached out to people in Sri Lanka.


BINDRA: Now, Daryn, now one of the challenges for the Indians will be to try and clear out Galle Harbor. That's when these ships can come in and dock right at the harbor side. At the moment, the harbor is blocked because several fishing vessels, several trollers and even a Sri Lankan naval warship have capsized in there. The Indian navy estimates this task will take about two to three days and it has already deployed several divers for this mission.

KAGAN: Satinder, interesting to see the Indian government coming to the help of the Sri Lankans, since there were victims in India as well. There are reports here in the west that the Indian government feels like it wants to take care of its own, that it is rich enough and can do well enough without outside aid.

BINDRA: Yes. Many people have commented on this. First they said it's nice that a country which has suffered so much, India has suffered as well, it wants to help its neighbor. Also, this is an Indian way of saying that it is the most powerful country in this region and it will do all possible to help. The Indian offer for aid, I should mention, is $25 million. In comparison, Japan has committed $350 million, the United States $500 million. But you talk to Sri Lankans here and they'll tell you that they appreciate the Indian offer. They think it's a symbol of very warm relations, very warm ties.

KAGAN: Satinder Bindra, thank you very much.

And just to make sure that we get those numbers straight. It was the United States offering $350 million and Japan offering $500 million.

WHITFIELD: Coming up, the overwhelming task of rebuilding.


NINA ZEN, HOTEL OWNER: We really have to go on and we owe it to the people around us.


WHITFIELD: And then we'll take you to one island that was seemingly untouched. Its story a big later.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KAGAN: To Thailand now. The government and tourism industry are focusing on rebuilding the damage in the tourist Mecca of Phuket. The government is providing money and tax breaks already and the people are providing the willpower.

CNN's Aneesh Raman reports from Phuket.


ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): On Phuket Island, the contrast is surreal. Almost incredible. What was once a pristine vision must be painstaking restored from among the debris left here in moments last Sunday.

NINA ZEN, HOTEL OWNER: And that is what remains of my office.

RAMAN: That's the huge task for hotel owners like Nina Zen. But she says that because some resorts were left standing, the island can recoverer. And it must.

ZEN: We really have to go on and we owe it to the people around us, the people who have worked very hard to develop this destination, both the agents, the operators, the people, the local people.

RAMAN: Livelihoods are at stake. Thailand's tourism industry brings in $10 billion annually. And Nina's employees rely on three peak months to sustain them for the rest of the year. It is that thought that keeps her going.

ZEN: The negative part of your brain says, I want to put down my papers and just pack my bags and go. But then when you see staff looking at you, what are you going to do?

RAMAN: Phuket is all that remains here. Other tourist areas like Phi Phi (ph) Island, to the costal shores of Calock (ph) are devastated. Rebuilding them will take months, if not years. Nina realizes she is more fortunate than most and working helps num the reality.

ZEN: Getting it up and running is a part of reliving the trauma because if you just sit down and do nothing, it creeps in you and in the end you don't do anything. But it's just that initial push to get up, walk.


RAMAN: And, Daryn, early signs, though, not encouraging. Some 70 percent of reservations here have been canceled. The Thai tourism minister, though, wants most of these buildings up and running...

KAGAN: And that's Aneesh Raman reporting to us from Phuket. A little bit of a technical difficulty there but we got most of the story in.

Much more ahead.


Still remarkable we're able to get as many stories as we are able to out of that region, considering the communication problems.

Well, coming up, the story of one island originally thought to be under water but left remarkably untouched.

KAGAN: Atika Shubert takes us to Simeulue when we come back.


WHITFIELD: In the days immediately after the disaster in Southern Asia, opened its site to people desperately searching for information about loved ones in the tsunami zone. It payed off. Many people used CNN as a clearinghouse for information. Here's one message and an update.

"Looking for information about my 37-year-old nephew, Courtois Denis, his wife Echo and 2-year-old daughter Elisabeth. Their location in Phuket is still unknown."

Well, here's the result. "I have got a lot of calls about my nephew and family in Phuket. Thanks to everybody. Good news, they are well and alive."

More coverage in a moment.


WHITFIELD: One Indonesian island that was thought to have been literally wiped off the face of the earth survived Sunday's earthquake and tsunamis relatively unharmed.

KAGAN: And we're talking about the island of Simeulue. It sits just 25 miles from the epicenter of the quake. But thanks to some good luck and some folk wisdom, the island escaped major damage or loss of life.

CNN's Atika Shubert has that story.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): Just 40 kilometers or 25 miles from the epicenter of one of the biggest earthquakes in recent history, the island of Simeulue is amazingly intact. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the earthquake picked up and shifted the entire island.

Yet, from our plane window, we can see idyllic seaside villages seemingly impervious to the devastation that has swept the region. This plane was the first to arrive since the earthquake, amid rumors the island was under water.

Before this plane arrived, the island of Simeulue had lost all communication with the world and many had believed the island had been simply wiped off the map. The local governor is overjoyed. Without any other means of communication, this is his chance to get the word out that the island survived but still needs help.

Thanks be to God that we did not lose many lives, he said, but we did lose our homes, schools and mosques.

In fact, the island did not escape unscathed. Scores of homes on the northern coast were destroyed and need to be rebuilt. But saved lives was this scene. Villagers running for the hills after the initial earthquake. Islanders received a tsunami warning handed down from generation to generation.

The island's harbor manager explained it like this. The story goes that in the 1800s there was an earthquake so big that it brought the sea onto land. So whenever there's an earthquake, we run for the hills.

A few days later, residents came down and returned to normal life, thankful that they minded island folklore. In what is otherwise a sea of despair, this is an island of hope.

Atika Shubert, CNN, Simeulue, Indonesia.


WHITFIELD: Surviving the unthinkable when we come back. We'll bring you first-hand accounts from survivors of the tsunami in their own words.


WHITFIELD: Let's talk a look at some of the stories happening now in the news.

U.S. relief aid has started reaching tsunami victims in Indonesia. Today U.S. military helicopters dropped off relief supplies in parts of the hard-hit Aceh province. Desperate survivors rushed toward a chopper after it touched down with boxes of goods. The region has been virtually cut off from the world for six days.

The death toll from Sunday's deadly earthquake induced tsunamis has now climbed to more than 140,000 people in Southern Asia. The increase is a reflection in part of new figures from rebel held areas in Sri Lanka. Tamil Tiger officials have been work with United Nations official to identify at least 18,000 people killed in the rebel held areas.

And there are more troubles for Sri Lanka. Flash floods today wiping out temporary shelter for about 3,000 tsunami victims, forcing them to flee to refugee camps on higher ground. The flooding caused no additional casualties but it's expected to hamper relief efforts.

For people who survived the terrible earthquake and tsunamis, the events of the past week will likely become the defining moments of their lives. Those who witnessed it, who were engulfed by it and who finally emerged alive from it will likely tell and retell those experiences for most of the rest of their lives.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God! Oh, [bleep].

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The wave hit and we have big waves in the channel. It wasn't a wave. It was a - the wave that hit but there was a - it was a solid wall behind it and it just kept coming. Nothing was going to stop that wave and it was just the biggest wave I've ever seen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That wave is a good 15, 20 feet tall, easy.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get in! Get in! Get in!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first indications we had was vibrations, which came through (INAUDIBLE) about 8:00 or 9:00 in the morning. And then I was in my bed at the time. First I heard a crashing sound coming through from the front of the building. We were lucky because the hotel we were in had an underground carport which took a large part of the impact. But the wave came through on the first floor. I heard a cashing, banging, screaming sound. I rushed out the front to see people basically bleeding everywhere, broken bones. People thrown into - out of windows. Debris everywhere. We were under about 10 feet of water at the time. And the situation was terrible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no way any person can tell you what emotion you feel when you see a wall of water one story high, fill up the lobby of a hotel, park three cars in the back of the lobby and you see people swimming around in that and you don't know what you can do to get them out of there. There is no emotion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were having coffee and the woman in the coffee shop said to us, the water is too high. And she kept saying that. And we said, what does that mean. And not a minute later she just screamed run and we all just started running and the water came really quickly.

So we started jogging through the streets, just trying to get to the mountains. And my friend and I just started running and every time we turned a corner, we thought we lost - or the water had stopped. But when we'd come to a through street, the water would be there. So we ran for about several streets with the water right at our heels. And then when we got to behind several buildings and streets, we got to the base of the mountain and it was like a mass exodus out of a city.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I couldn't judge how fast it was moving because it was behind me. We were just running. But, you know, it was carrying everything that it had destroyed on its way in, was carrying it on its way out. So there was furniture and buildings and pieces of everything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, (through translator): Suddenly there were huge waves that hit the seashore and people started running Helter- Skelter. A lot of women were trapped because they couldn't run and a lot of children were also trapped. About 60 people are supposed to have died. We have never seen anything like this before and we are really very scared.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (through translator): We have never seen anything like this before and we are really very scared.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (through translator): I lost everyone and everything, says this 30-year-old (UNINTELLIGIBLE). My four children and my husband are gone, gone. I was holding my 8-month-old in the waters, but the waves pulled us apart.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (through translator): We've never seen anything like this. We were fishing normally in the sea when we were shocked by the huge waves. We fled for shore and parade for Allah to save our lives.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (through translator): I was alone and shouted for help, but no one was here. Everything got washed away, including boat and net. Nothing is left in any house. All our belongings are gone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I thought, OK, it's going to stop. It's going to hit our ankles. My youngest daughter dropped her journal. I went to pick it up. When I picked it up, I heard this sound that can only be described as perhaps a jet engine bearing down on us. And trees starting to break. And then what looked like a wave that was just 10 to 15 feet, not in the traditional sense of a wave. But massive water rushing at us, closing a gap. I didn't think I we've ever run that fast.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The water just came up like a gigantic wave and took the -- all of the deck. The deck came flying in through the windows, and I said, let's get out of here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Started off being able to stand up in it and then cupboards and chairs and mattresses started coming at you. And I got out of the way, and ended up on some sort of like pier going out to sea. And there was people on the beach in the early morning just being wash out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We climbed up this tree while the water was still breaking right at our feet, the waves. We headed up the tree and went higher and higher until we were right at the top and we couldn't go any higher. And we just waited until the water level eventually dropped.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Before the wave came in, there was a massive undertow, and in 15 to 30 seconds, something like 200 yards, I'm sorry, 2,000 yards of water just got sucked right out to sea. And anybody who was in the water at that point up to their knees or so, got yanked right out. There was just no hope for those people. People described seeing literally thousands of people on this beach and one minute and the next minute, those people were gone. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Suddenly we saw the water advanced. To start with, we thought it was just the sea getting a little angry. Then the second wave was a lot stronger, and we rushed upstairs. It happened a few times with about an hour in between and the third wave that hit the hotel, devastated the bottom half, the lower floors and so on. And we were trapped on the third floor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The children were playing on the beach when I came running down to find them and my wife Libby. The sea (UNINTELLIGIBLE) was a flat cam but with one big exception. A 20-foot wave was coming inshore very quickly indeed. And 5-year-old Peter was staring at the wave mesmerized. I lurched forward and grabbed him.

Obviously, with the wave pursuing us pretty rapidly, Peter, and I were moving rather more quickly than we are this morning. My wife Libby and my daughter Elizabeth headed for our bungalow over there. But I knew myself and the little fellow here simply wouldn't make it. We listened to the wave breaking on the beach. There was a big bang as it came through those trees.

I suppose we reached about here before we were washed away. We were then carried about 40 yards. The wave carried us both through this little gap between these two bungalows. All the time I was acutely aware of all the debris that the wave had picked up on its journey. Peter and I ended up actually down there in this field. Here are some of the tree trunks and other bits of debris that the wave carried with us. Fortunately, they missed us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rooms filled up within 30 seconds. First of all to about three foot and then we all got out of the rooms and then one of our friends, we couldn't get out of the room and he woke up. He was asleep on his bed and woke up in water. Had to throw the TV out the window to climb out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You turned around and all the sudden there was about a 25 or 30-foot wall of water rushing towards you probably at about 40 miles an hour. And you had little time to try and get to higher ground.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Having stood in the water and literally within two seconds from ankle height it came to shoulder height. You usually imagine tidal waves like this you see in the movies, a big wave. Waves that hit Phuket (ph), and certainly from the reports I've had from other resorts, they all came in very hard and fast. It was a bit like running a bath (ph) rush to the top.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This was a terrible roaring rose. We looked through the glass doors and this torrent of mighty water just came down the steps and through the doors. And washed me away (UNINTELLIGIBLE). The glass doors were smashed by the water. And I just couldn't keep my footing. I was very frightened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was this hut and we heard this little girl crying. All we heard was her whimpering. So we went in there and dragged her out. She ended up going to the hospital. And we just found out today that she didn't make it either, but four others in that hut, all of them perished yesterday. And this was a small village, about 800 people, and we lost five right there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Children are less able to run away from this kind of a flood. Less able to hang on to a tree. They are less able to swim for their lives. So we are afraid that children were disproportionately affected, especially those who were caught in the raging torrents.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am searching for my mother. She's from Holland. She's 53 years old. She's missing from the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) beach resort. We have still hope and we are not going to leave without her. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) dead or alive. But we have to find her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've had three false alarms already. Last night we found someone with (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and managed to track him out about midnight. It was someone completely different from England who was on holiday. So you have lots of leads which you follow and you get excited and then you'll find some information which sort of takes you off that trail.

But you have to remain positive. You know, miracles do happen. And if you start to believe that the worst has happened, you start to crumble. So you just remain positive all the time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Horrible. Sounded like a jet engine just right maybe five feet behind you. People screaming as maybe the water hit them. It was trees cracking, houses exploding. It was just so horrible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was in the water in the middle of the sea and I didn't have anything with me. My bag was gone. Washed off in the water. I had only my top on. So I started swimming. I have the God-given gift of swimming. I started swimming with lots and lots of hope that I might find someone, that my family might be waiting for me. I still have hopes that my parents are alive searching for me. I am all right, Papa, Mama, please come back again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then it came in again. I could hear my wife scream. I knew where she was. I was hiding behind a wall and I went around to get her. And then just all hell broke loose. And that was the last time I saw her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (through translator): I was at work when some people came to me and told me that huge waves were lashing the shore and my family was in danger. I rushed home and managed to rescue my mother. I took her to the hospital. By the time I returned, I realized my daughter was missing. I looked up hospitals for her but could not find her. After three days, I found her body in the debris of my house.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We left paradise. It was a beautiful island, and we came back to just hell.

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (through translator): We never felt that it was a tsunami. It was a big tide. They had big tides there every day. Well, it came and went and everybody calmed down. And came back to look at the damage, find their loved ones. That's when the second wave came.

An elderly lady was stuck in the side of a balcony and she was lying in the water on her back with her head just barely above water. Chairs and benches and all kinds of stuff were piling up on her and crushing her. Her elderly husband couldn't help her, but two other guys came running up and five of us pulled her out of there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a lot of panic. A lot of people hysterical. A lot of the children were grabbing hold of me and people around and like a lot of the mothers of children. There was one particular mother who had about three or four children around. Obviously she didn't have enough arms to hold her children. She was imploring me to grab her children and look after her children, which I did.

I was trying to grab hold of as many people as possible as well as secure myself. Then the second wave hit. There was like a sea of dead bodies, children, and women mainly. The majority of them were children. So I had to clear a path through the water by pushing these people away and heading as far inland as possible. So it was just a case of survival at the moment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But to be here and see it on the television, so we have to be here and see what we can do, if we can find her or figure out what happened to her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just stopped by the phone 24/7. Haven't heard from him. So now took the bull by the horns and am flying out tomorrow to Thailand myself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have some pictures out. There's posters all around the hospitals. Everybody is trying their best.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are many regions still untouched by medical hands. My personal opinion having seen the destruction is that the counts that have been given based on the body counts, only a small fraction of the final death toll what it's likely to be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Perhaps the biggest challenge now is the water and the sanitation and the emergency food and the emergency shelter for hundreds of thousands of homeless.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, (through translator): We are trying to provide people what they require the most at this time, like food, utensils, water, clothing, et cetera.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's all water and sanitation equipment. Water tanks, pumps, taps (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and basically toilet facilities. There's 27 tons going on the plane. And what it will do is bring clean water to at least 175,000 people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) They know best here. We collected money from the temple.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People are bringing everything, clothes, materials, and medicine. Bandages, whatever are needed, they are bringing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to be a huge operation. We're four days out from this event already. Bodies are lying unrefrigerated, deteriorating rapidly. The Thai authorities have done quite an excellent job, I think, in quite extraordinarily difficult circumstances. This would challenge the most developed country in the world, the scale of this problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The sea is like a mother, the land our father, he says. We love the sea and respect it like God. But now we are wary. We are petrified, he says. We wonder now, can we continue our livelihood on the high seas?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were so generous. They were missing (UNINTELLIGIBLE). They were missing their families. And they brought up food and supplies and we all sort of camped out on top of this jungle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was speaking with people who have lost their homes, and a number of fishermen lost their livelihood. And to be able to get on a plane and get away from it left me with a very unsettling feeling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were no villages left standing, between (UNINTELLIGIBLE) which is about 100 kilometers north of Meulaboh (ph). It's like a nuclear blast has hit the area. And it's completely leveled everything, except for a few structures. We've seen nothing at all of the ones built out of wood and thatched roofs, and that constitutes probably the most.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (through translator): Entire families have been wiped away. Children have been separated from their parents. There are dead bodies all over. We are more worried about people who are in the forest and are injured because no aid reached them yet. I hope the government can do something for them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My boat is somewhere out there, he says. I don't know where my family is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (through translator): The water was rising and the sea was coming. We ran for our lives, but it caught us and the water almost came up to our necks. We managed to escape from the first wave, which destroyed our house. The second wave came and took us by surprise. There was just so much water I didn't know what to do.

When the second wave came, we were looking for our son and my husband went out to search for him and found him in a tree. He rescued him and both of them were running for their lives. Later, my son was found alive, but my husband was missing. He had been drowned. We don't know what to do next. Right now we don't have a source of income. We'll need to look for jobs. But they are scarce.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (through translator): My main thoughts were about the people who died. Nothing was clear. We figured some had been taken to sea. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brought my friend here. I don't have (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Nothing left.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I saw him, it was really exciting for me. When you see what happened, you see the carnage and you realize how lucky we are as a family.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They called him the miracle boy. And today there was one more miracle waiting for little Hannes Bergstram (ph). His father. The 20-month-old was separated from his parents when the tsunami hit Phuket (ph).

An American family found him unconscious, wrapped in blankets at the top of a hill. No one knew if he'd even survive. But he did. His father recovering from his injuries in another hospital wondered if he'd ever see his little boy again. His prayers were answered.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was frightened. I did not think I would survive. The rescue team found my son in the main grove, not me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I knew I had to let go of one of them, and I just thought, I better let go of the one that's the oldest. And a lady grabbed hold of him for a moment, but she said that she had to let him go because she was going under. And I was screaming trying to find him and we thought he was dead. I'm just so thankful that I've still got my two kids with me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't imagine that if you had just lost your entire worldly possessions and perhaps more, parents, children, that you would turn around and offer kindness. One man went down to the village or whatever was left of it. I don't know how he did it, and brought up rice. Some of the best tasting rice we've ever had.

He didn't have to do that. I don't know why he did it. It's a testament to the Thai people, the generosity of spirit. Just a magical group.



WHITFIELD: Back to our continuing coverage of the tsunami disaster. We know that many people were doing the most ordinary things when the tsunami slammed ashore without warning nearly a week ago.

KAGAN: Afterward, we are learning the most extraordinary stories of survival. Ryan Chillicothe has details about two Russian brothers who were simply waiting for a taxi when the tsunami hit.


RYAN CHILLICOTHE, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and his brother had just enjoyed a two-week vacation in Phuket (ph). They were waiting for a cab to the airport when the water came. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (through translator): We never felt that it was a tsunami. It was a big tide. They had big tides there every day. Well, it came and went and everybody calmed down. And came back to look at the damage, find their loved ones. That's when the second wave came.

An elderly lady was stuck in the side of a balcony and she was lying in the water on her back with her head just barely above water. Chairs and benches and all sorts of junk were piling up on her and crushing her. Her elderly husband couldn't help her, but two other guys came running up and five of us pulled her out of there.

CHILLICOTHE: Then their hotel started creaking. They jumped off the balcony and started grabbing what they could to rescue themselves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (though translator): We got a football and stuck it in our backpack to make the backpack floatable. We also caught a motorcycle helmet which I put on my head to protect myself, and swam with it.

CHILLICOTHE: Their big break came when they made it to this palm tree. When the final wave came, they rode it to dry land. Later they returned to the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Beach Hotel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (though translator): My main thoughts were about the people who died. Nothing was clear. We figured some had been taken to sea. We were in an enormous dump with all these abandoned buildings, cars on their backs, computer parts, toys, parts of buildings. Everything was in one big pile.

CHILLICOTHE: The next day, they drove to Bangkok and got a passing glimpse that others had not been as lucky. Bryan Chillicothe, CNN, Moscow.


WHITFIELD: Some remarkable stories. Remarkable pictures. It just is unfathomable, isn't it?

KAGAN: Incredible. And it keeps coming.

WHITFIELD: That's going to do it for this hour. We'll be back at 3:00 Eastern to bring you a lot more. Stay with CNN for complete coverage of the tsunami disaster.

KAGAN: Meanwhile straight ahead, live from Sri Lanka, Hugh Rimington with a special simulcast with CNN International.



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