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Tsunami Coverage Continues; Interview with Martin Dawes

Aired January 1, 2005 - 12:00   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN CO-ANCHOR: It is 12:00 p.m. on the East coast of the U.S., 11:00 p.m. in Sri Lanka. I'm Daryn Kagan at CNN's global headquarters.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CO-ANCHOR: And I'm Fredricka Whitfield. We continue this hour with CNN's extensive coverage of the tsunami disaster with our unmatched, worldwide resources.

KAGAN: CNN literally has dozens of staffers on the ground in south Asia cover 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 heart of the disaster with some harrowing firsthand accounts. But first, a look at the top stories now in the news.

New developments on the tsunami recovery: U.S. aid supplies are being delivered into parts of Indonesia's Aceh Province, today. The devastated area pounded 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 fight and he joins us live with details in a few moments.

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

Several Elite Rescue workers from Virginia are among the crews on their way to help tsunami survivors. The team left on a flight last night along with some other specially trained crews from Los Angeles. They will provide recovery advice to Sri Lanka officials.

KAGAN: Nearly a million revelers gathered in New York's Time Square last night to watch the glittery ball drop and the countdown to the New Year. It was the 100th annual such countdown in Time Square. Earlier a moment of silence marked repect for tsunami victims.

President Bush called for flags to fly at half staff next week to honor the victims and vowed that continued aid to tsunami stricken areas will continue to flow. 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.

To the Vatican now, Pope John Paul II remembered the 10s of thousands of Asian tsunami victims during his New Years grieving. The pontiff prayed for victims of what he called "this terrible calamity" and welcomed the growing international aid response.

WHITFIELD: Another famous New Year's tradition is under way in the streets of Pasadena, California. Fifty flower covered floats are taking part in the 115 the Tournament of Roses Parade. Some of those floats coast as much as $350,000. There's an animated grand marshall this year, Disney character, Mickey Mouse.

Later today, big ten co-champ, Michigan, faces the Texas Longhorns in the 91st Rose Bowl game.

And that's one of six bowl games today. The Cotton Bowl in Dallas and Outback Bowl in Tampa are already underway. And later this hour, Florida State and West Virginia meet at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida. And that's the next stop on CNN's "Rick Horrow's Bowl Express." He joins us in a few minutes to update all the bowl action.

Let's turn now to our CNN security watch. Authorities are talking to a New Jersey man about a laser beam aimed directly at an airborne police helicopter on Friday night. A similar incident happened Wednesday to a small plane. The beam was traced to a home in New Jersey. Across the country, six commercial airliners, this week, reportedly had their cockpits illuminated by laser beams during approaches at various airports.

KAGAN: Remember that FBI agent who wrote that memo criticizing pre-9/11 counter terrorism efforts? Well, she has reportedly now resigned. Coleen Rowley says that FBI supervisors blocked request for a special search warrant for terror suspect, Zacarias Moussaoui. He is the only person facing trial in the U.S. in connection with the attack. Rowley was named "Time" magazine's "Person of the Year" back in 2002 for her whistle blowing efforts. "Associated Press" quotes the "Minneapolis Star Tribune" which says "she retired eleven days after turning 50 when she became eligible for a full pension."

Stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security.

WHITFIELD: Our comprehensive coverage of the Asian tsunami disaster gets underway this hour with new developments on several fronts. The overall official death toll in the disaster zone now stands at more than 140,000. The death toll has been rising as the world learns about more bodies found in Thailand and Sri Lanka.

And today, another setback, flash floods in eastern Sri Lanka wiped out refugee camps and makeshift home, forcing some 3,000 people to flee inland. International aid totals are now topped by Japan which is pledging $500 million. That places Japan far ahead of other nations' aids amount. The U.S. increased its pledge tenfold to $350 million, saying more aid money might be added soon once exact needs are determined -- Daryn.

KAGAN: The aid from the U.S. is arriving in the disaster zone. It is nearly a week after the tsunami swamped several coast lines in south Asia. CNN's Mike Chinoy was onboard the first U.S. military helicopter to land in the hard-hit province of Banda Aceh of Indonesia.


MIKE CHINOY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the first day of the year, we joined the U.S. Navy for a flight to a town that no longer exists. At Banda Aceh airport, sailors from the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln loaded an SH-60 helicopter with containers of milk and nutritional supplements. We climbed aboard...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: and primary exit. This is what we spoke of. It'll be open the whole flight.

CHINOY: And Commander Frank Michael and Lieutenant Bo Beman, and Chief Petty Officer Gerry Schwartz ease the chopper into the sky.

It was the first U.S. military flight bringing relief to the areas worst hit by the disaster. The mission was to find the town of Kuda Tunam (PH) if any of it was left and deliver food to the survivors, if there were any. Kuda Tunam, population just under 10,000 was 110 kilometers, 70 miles south down the coast.

Within minutes, we were flying over a wasteland. These had been towns and villages. The tsunami left them looking like they'd been hit by a nuclear bomb and the sea on this day seemed so calm.

Eventually, a few intact structures came into view, including several mosques, evidently built more sturdily and able to withstand the waves. We neared Kuda Tunam, and then suddenly we saw them -- a small number of survivors. One emerged from the rubble and frantically raced towards us, but his hopes for help were dashed. There was no safe place near him for Commander Michael to land.

It took ten minutes of circling to find a location, 10 minutes to begin to absorb the unimaginable catastrophe that had befallen the town. We touched down in cloud of dust. Gerry Schwartz put the first box of milk out and crowd swarmed towards the chopper. They were people, but they acted like a hungry, wild pack. Fearing they might swamp the chopper, Gerry Schwartz pleaded with the crowd to move back.

(on camera): We are the first people that these survivors have seen since the disaster, their desperation is palpable. They've had nothing to eat, almost nothing to drink. Their entire town is in ruins. These people, though, are at least alive. We've been flying for an hour in Banda Aceh along the coast and until now, we didn't see a single, living person.

(voice-over): "Aceh has drowned," this man cried. "There's nothing left. We are finished." One man grabbed our microphone. "Thank you, thank you," he repeated.

As soon as the last box was gone, Commander Michael lifted off. But, a second SH-60 soon arrived, carrying a U.S. Navy medical team.

On the way back, the crew seemed lost in thought. The aircraft carrier, Abraham Lincoln, is steaming just off Banda Aceh. It's the nerve center for the U.S. military's relief operation. We landed to take on more fuel. There are 6,500 sailors on this ship, a senior officer told me, they are dying to come ashore and help.

Then we left the carrier, heading back with more supplies to Banda Aceh Airport, now full of American, Australian, and Indonesian relief planes.

CPO GERRY SCHWARZ, U.S. NAVY: Like it was absolutely overwhelming, I've got 20 years of Navel aviation. I've picked everyone up from downed aviators to stranded Mariners, never before had I experienced anything as overwhelming. Fearful, yet really exhilarating to see that we're actually helping those in need, and they are clearly in need -- dire need.

CMDR. FRANK MICHAEL, U.S. NAVY: We're here, we've got a lot of helicopter and we're going to keep doing what we're doing.

CHINOY: Then it was back to Aceh Indonesia Kuda Tunam, day one, of a mission of mercy that will have to last a very long time.

Mike Chinoy, CNN, Aceh, Indonesia.


WHITFIELD: Aid comes from many sources: Nations, relief agencies, corporations, and generous individuals. Our reporters are uncovering countless examples of selflessness in this crisis. CNN's Atika Shubert has this story from an Indonesian town closest to the earthquakes, epicenter of the.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Christian Van Strombeck and Susi Pudeastutsi (SIC), are a husband and wife team. He flies, she owns Susi Air, a company with two small Cessna aircraft. When Susi's homeland of Indonesia was hit by disaster, they decided to pitch in. They use their planes to open a corridor to the west coast of Aceh, completely cut off from outside help. They were told it was impossible, the airstrip destroyed, But Christian, a German pilot of 16 years, was convinced he could land on the 600 meters of runway left. He was right.

CHRISTIAN VAN STROMBECK, SUSI AIR PILOT: We have carried quite a bit of load to there. We also hope that what we do gives many people hope. That's one very important thing, that the people see somebody cares for them and somebody's able to come to them.

SHUBERT: And come, they did, opening the door to the most devastated and isolated area hit by this disaster. Upon their landing, soldiers stranded here quickly began painting and repairing the runway best they could. Now, other relief workers can follow.

Susi Air now flies three to four flights a day, bearing supplies and information. This woman pleaded to travel with them to find her family, missing in Aceh's West coast. As they fly over the devastated area, at first, she doesn't recognize her hometown. Eighty percent of it washed out to sea. Susi tries to break the news to her gently, but there's no easy way to say it. Susi Air also delivers good news. These soldiers have had no contact with the outside world. They write down numbers and names, hoping Susi Air will let their families know they are alive and well. Susi Air was also first to verify that the island closest to the epicenter had not been destroyed, as many had feared, that it survived intact, but in need of help, its airstrip fully operational.

SUSI PUDEASTUTS, SUSI AIR OWNER: But, I think it needs sometime -- they got -- a little bit of, sometime, little bit crazy to bring the thing through, that is here. And I think other people has to do the same.

SHUBERT: Perhaps the most important cargo on Susi air is hope.


SHUBERT: Fredricka, Christian and Susi were only able to bring a fraction of the food, medicine and water that's needed in this area. But, what they did was essentially opened the door for other relief organizations who were trying to get in. As soon as they were able to land on that airstrip, other relief organizations called them up, said "how did you do it? We want to be able to get there too." So, it's really heartening to know that even just an individual can make a big difference just by pushing through and persevering.

WHITFIELD: So, Atika, word of access has spread because of that couple, but does that mean now that some of that international aid is starting to make its landings as well?

SHUBERT: We are starting to see some of that international aid come through, as you saw in Mike Chinoy's piece, the U.S. military is able to make more progress in getting aid to some of the more remote areas. But, having said that, there's a lot of frustration, because international aid is now starting to come through, but it's bottle necking in quite a few areas, particularly where I'm at now in Medan, which is the coordination center for relief effortless and also the provincial capitol, Banda Aceh, aid is flooding to these two cities, but getting it to the more remote areas is proving to be very difficult, especially areas like the West coast of aceh, not accessible by land, only by sea or by air. And, obviously, you need trucks and fuel to get it to the right people, but it's proving to be very difficult at this point -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Atika Shubert, thanks you so much from Indonesia.

To Sri Lanka now where nearly a million people have been displaced by the tsunamis and officials can only guess how many children will be left orphaned by this disaster. Joining us by phone from Colombo, Sri Lanka is Martin Dawes, the South Asia spokesman for UNICEF.

Glad you could be with us, Martin.

MARTIN DAWES, UNICEF SPOKESMAN: Fredricka, it's a pleasure.

WHITFIELD: So, what are your observations, right now, about the youngest victims, the children?

DAWES: Well, it's a huge challenge. I mean, what we're looking at is a large, large number of victims and a large number of children who may be without their -- who may have lost their caregivers and they may have lost their parents. We really don't know at the moment. We are actually working with the authorities in the south to do a snap survey to try to find out a picture we may be able to then sort of use and take to the whole island and say, OK, what do we do now?

The other thing we've got an issue with is that in the east of the island, which was the poorest economically because of 20 years of conflict, we've got rains at the moment, there's flash floods and the aid that we've got on the road -- actually, at the moment, some of it is having to be stopped because of the floods.

WHITFIELD: How much of a set back have those flash floods been?

DAWES: They've been extremely severe and there were floods earlier -- I suppose I should say last year now, in Sri Lanka, which disrupted activities. Then we had the wave. So, it's an area that had quite a few blows. At the moment, we're -- it sent a lot of people who were in damaged housing back in displaced persons camp. In one of the poorest areas, there's something like 150,000 in one district in displaced people's camps. They need help and there is a risk of disease.

WHITFIELD: Now Martin, already, there were -- there was a crisis involving children in many parts of Sri Lanka, many children who were orphaned. How do you try to prioritize the need now that the number of displaced children has increased exponentially?

DAWES: Well, that's right and there was a kind of culture in Sri Lanka of putting kids in orphanages, which effectively did institutionalize them. That's something we want to try and avoid and basically from the camps that we've been to, we have seen a lot of children do have a near relative or someone who knows them, looking after them and maybe we can build on what is actually happening there, try and make people more able to look after children, bring them up in a loving and nurturing environment rather than setting up expensive institutions. That may have to be the case because of the numbers.

WHITFIELD: Martin Dawes, thanks so much for joining us from Colombo, Sri Lanka. The south Asian Spokesperson for UNICEF -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Coming up: How parts of south Asia marked the New Year.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Phuket, Thailand this isn't how anyone planned to bring in 2005. A massive candlelight vigil, mourning those lost, rembering those still missing.


KAGAN: CNN's Anderson Cooper takes us around the world where many New Year's celebrations were canceled or replaced with memorials. Plus the daunting task of caring for the injured: The latest on the relief efforts, that's coming up at the half hour.


KAGAN: Well, if you haven't looked at the calendar, 2005 is here, the year of hope, perhaps a brighter year ahead. In Times Square, city crews are working to clean up this morning. A night of revelry with a personal thanks from Mayor Bloomberg who visited the crews.

Secretary of State, Colin Powell, by the way, a native New Yorker, pressed the big button that started 100th annual New Year's countdown. Hundreds of thousands of people partied in Time Square, last night, as the big ball dropped on cue. There was a moment of silence earlier in the evening to honor those who died in the tsunami.

Around the world, New Year's celebrations were muted and some were even canceled. CNN's Anderson Cooper takes a look at that.


COOPER: The sadness surrounds them, soreo in nearly every face. In Phuket, Thailand, this isn't how anyone planned to bring in 2005. A massive candlelight vigil, mourning those lost, rembering those still missing.

In Indonesia, most government agencies canceled fireworks displays and urnlged people instead to pray.

Across India, New Year's celebrations were also cancelled, as one official said, "It doesn't feel right to host parties."

There was a minute of silence before midnight in Sydney, Australia, where authorities said it was too late to cancel the New Year's Eve gathering in Sydney Harbor.

TV coverage of the Sydney fireworks turned into a telethon for tsunami victims.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The giant disco ball there, hanging from the Sydney Harbor bridge, it doesn't get much better than that. Of course, tonight, we are here, raising money for a very important appeal. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) tonight we ask you to dig deep and give generously.

COOPER: It may have sounded a little unusual, but they raised about three-quarters of a million dollars. There was pall over New Year's celebrations in Europe. In Paris, black cloth draped the Champs-Elysees.

In Berlin, flags on government buildings greeted the New Year at half staff. At the Vatican, Pope John Paul II prayed for victims of what he called "this huge tragedy." He also urged the world community to rush aid to the survivors. New Year's festivities in Sweden, in Norway, in Denmark and Finland were canceled as well. Mindful of the images we've all been seeing, officials there called on people to ring in 2005 with dignity.


KAGAN: And our thanks to Anderson Cooper for that report. By the way, he will be reporting from the scene of the Asian tsunami disaster. He's on his way and he'll be reporting beginning on Monday.

WHITFIELD: And as we've already mentioned, worldwide pledges of aid to tsunami victims has been impressive and it's ongoing. Still ahead, we'll look at how some of that aid will translate into help on the ground. CNN's Sanjay Gupta is in the region and has a report for us coming up.


KAGAN: We'll get back to our tsunami coverage in just a moment. Want to talk though -- it is New Year's day, traditionally a busy day for college football. There are six match-ups today, including the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Florida. That SEC versus the big 10 match up has No. 8 Georgia taking on number 16, Wisconsin. Rick Horrow has been on the road checking out the ballgames and he joins us from Tampa, just one of his many stops.

Happy New Years.

RICK HORROW, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: Happy New Year. Georgia 10, Wisconsin six with about seven minutes left in the second quarter.

KAGAN: All right, Bulldog fans happy about that, Badgers hanging in there. But, the other game going on here, Rick, is the business.

HORROW: Right.

KAGAN: Now, how does it even start to become the Outback Bowl?

HORROW: Well, the Hall of Fame Bowl and the bowl in Tampa basically sold its branding soul to Outback Steak House in order to generate substantial revenue. They're paying about $2-and-a-half million per team to show up here, nearly four times the amount of what are called the niche bowls. You know, there are 28 of these bowls. This is bowl 21 of them. Fifty-six teams, nearly half division one football participates, one billion dollar economic impact for the communities and about $132 million going to those teams. So, it's pretty significant in addition to the fact this is bowl four of seven for me, so I'm getting pretty fat.

KAGAN: Yeah, cha-ching. This all leading up to the national championship, the Orange bowl on Tuesday?

HORROW: Yeah. Well, you know, everybody talks about how other teams ought to be in it. There's always controversy. You know, there have been split national champions 11 times since 1954 and we may face the prospect of Utah, Auburn, and the winner of Oklahoma, Southern California being undefeated come Wednesday. A lot of controversy, it's a $5 billion business, this college football. The more people talk about it, probably the better for college football, but we're not near a playoff and nobody knows how to crown a definitive national champion that everybody's excited about. We'll talk more about that later in the week

KAGAN: Oh, they know how to do it. They just don't want to lose all that money. Anyhow, that's a different topic for a different day. Rick Horrow, good luck on the road.

HORROW: Talk to you.


WHITFIELD: Good football day.

KAGAN: Yeah, absolutely. One of the best.

WHITFIELD: For a week, you know, shoot it keeps going.

KAGAN: It does keep going, keeps on giving. Well, that's going to do it for this half hour. In our next half hour, Dr. Sanjay Gupta will be straight ahead.

WHITFIELD: He'll have the latest on the tsunami relief efforts and I'll be back in just a minute with a check on the headlines.


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