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Tsunami Disaster: Worldwide Relief Effort

Aired January 1, 2005 - 15:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Now in the news, CNN is there as U.S. relief supplies first reach isolated tsunami survivors. Helicopters from the "USS Abraham Lincoln" brought milk and nutritional supplements to people in the town Kuatonem (ph), in Indonesia's Aceh province. Medical aid, water and other supplies were also delivered. Straight ahead on CNN the very latest on efforts to reach survivors and more in-depth tsunami coverage.
Another tragedy to speak of this one by fire. Survivors of a deadly nightclub fire in Buenos Aires say emergency exits were locked, keeping people from escaping. Authorities say 175 people were killed, and more than 700 injured when someone set off a flare Thursday during a show at the Crow Republic Club. The club's owner was detained Friday and is expected to face more questioning in the coming days. Police are also searching for three business partners.

New Year's Eve celebrations were canceled and turned into solemn events in many Asian cities. Candlelight vigils were held in India and in Thailand. Celebrations were also canceled in several Scandinavian countries after hundreds of their citizens died in the Asian tsunamis.

It is 3:00 p.m here in Atlanta, and it's 3:00 a.m. in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. I'm Fredricka Whitfield at CNN's Global Headquarters.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Daryn Kagan this hour more of CNN's coverage of the tsunami disaster. The worldwide efforts to help its victims.

WHITFIELD: Dozens of CNN journalists are in South Asia reporting on this story. We'll hear from many of them this hour and throughout the day.

KAGAN: First this hour, the very latest on the effects of the tsunami and the recover efforts. According to the latest tally, more than 140,000 people were killed by the tsunami and flooding triggered by Sunday's earthquake. Indonesia, the nearest to the quake's epicenter, remains hardest hit with nearly 80,000 dead.

WHITFIELD: Japan's prime minister says his country will donate half a billion dollars in aid for areas devastated by the tsunami. Japan is the single largest contributor to the relief efforts right now. Its previous pledge was $30 million. About $2 billion worldwide has been pledged so far.

And in addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars the U.S. says it will give to relief efforts, President Bush has ordered U.S. flags to be flown at half-staff on U.S. government buildings as part of a week of mourning for victims of the disaster. In his weekly radio address, Mr. Bush says the U.S. joins the world in feeling, quote, enormous sadness over great human tragedy.

In isolated parts of Indonesia, tsunami survivors are just now receiving some assistance. A U.S. navy helicopter took food and milk to part of Aceh Province, cut off from the rest of the country. Mike Chinoy was on that flight and has this exclusive look at the reaction of people who have waited for days for help.


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: Primary exit just as we spoke of, it will be open the whole flight.

CHINOY: And Commander Frank Michael, Lieutenant Bo Beeman and Chief Petty Officer Gerry Schwarz, he's 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 Kodatetal (ph) if there was any of it left and deliver food to the survivors if there were any. Kodatetal (ph) population just under 10,000, was 110 kilometers, 730 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 had been hit by a nuclear bomb. 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 the town. 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 of the there was no safe place near him for Commander Michael to land. It took ten minutes of circling to find a location. Ten minutes to begin to absorb the unimaginable catastrophe that had befallen the town.

We touched down in a cloud of dust. Gerry Schwarz put the first box of milk out. And a crowd swarmed towards the chopper. They were people, but they acted like a hungry wild pack. Fearing they might swamp the chopper, Gerry Schwarz 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 to 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 is 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, the senior officer told me. They're dying to come ashore and help. Then we left the carrier, heading back for more supplies to Banda Aceh Airport, now full of American, Australian, and Indonesian relief planes.

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

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

CHINOY: Then it was back to the town. Day one of a mission of mercy that will have to last a very long time. Mike Chinoy, CNN, Aceh, Indonesia.


KAGAN: It is also proving difficult to reach northern areas of Sri Lanka. Parts of the country controlled by the Tamil Tiger rebels. Before people could even begin recovering from the tsunami, torrential rains are causing flooding and creating new problems for survivors. ITN's Harry Smith has more from Sri Lanka.


HARRY SMITH, ITN (voice over): For the people of eastern Sri Lanka, it's the last thing they needed. As they struggle to bring aid to thousands of disaster victims, two days of torrential rain have turned streets into rivers. Communications have already been hit by roads crumbling from the impact of the tsunami. Now many roads further inland are blocked by floodwater. Our efforts to reach the coast involve many detours before we found one flood shallow enough to cross. We also had to pass from Sri Lankan military control into the territory of the Tamil Tigers who fought a long and bloody war here which killed tens of thousands before a cease-fire two years ago.

This coastline was one of the worst hit in Sunday's disaster. Its low-lying towns took the full force of the giant wave. After two years of peace, it's the forces of nature which have now brought death and destruction back to this part of Sri Lanka. And it's nature which is now prolonging the agony for those who survived. In the clusters of the convent, we found 700 refugees. The nuns providing them with food and shelter say they are running out of supplies and urgently need outside help.

SISTER MARIA CLARETTE, RELIEF WORKER: For a week, we can just hope. Really, we just can't continue in this way. SMITH: Some aid is being handed out. But most like this comes from local donations. People here said they're remote less from capital Colombo, and the fact that their Tamils puts them at the end of the queue. With more rain forecast, Sri Lankans can't depend on nature to give them a helping hand, but they hope the rest of the world will.

Harry Smith, ITV News, eastern Sri Lanka.


WHITFIELD: And many of the tsunami victims were tourists drawn to that part of the world because of the beauty of many of the resorts there.

KAGAN: Well, for the survivors, the beauty has turned to terror, also to confusion. In Phuket, Thailand, people are reaching out to strangers and trying to help. CNN's Aneesh Raman has their story.


ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In the aftermath of unthinkable tragedy, a moment of remarkable humanity. 18-year-old Tan Tai Wongseri (ph) fills out a name tag with the languages he speak so he can offer help and comfort to tourists. Every visitor here has a story.

Tan lives on an inland far from the shores consumed by tsunami waves. After hearing about the disaster he felt for the large number of foreigners among the casualties. Their faces surround everyone here as a constant reminder of who was lost. The missing now by many accounts presumed dead. There are thousands of volunteers like Tan Thai coming here from all over Thailand, fueling this massive relief effort. This is a country that often finds compassion in crisis. American Tony Carney has lived in Thailand for well over a decade. The sights he sees now are nothing new.

TONY CARNEY, THAI RESIDENT: There's a concept in Thailand in Thai culture, that doesn't even translate into the English language. Translating loosely, it's an outpouring of the heart. Thai people have a great pride in this concept.

RAMAN: Around this tense city, scores of volunteers, looking to help shocked and stranded tourists wandering a foreign land, not speaking its language, torn from their loved ones. Tan and many like him are the core of Thailand's relief effort. Waving above the scene of sadness, Thailand's flag, half mast for its own people, and the countless travelers who also perished here.

Aneesh Raman, CNN, Phuket, southern Thailand.


KAGAN: Well, when something horrible happens, sometimes it's difficult to remember that not all the news is bad news. And this youngster definitely part of one of the good news stories, where he was found and his reunion with his dad. When we come back.

WHITFIELD: And then CNN's Brian Todd takes a look at the state of giving, specifically on the United States' stance. Has something happened to the philosophy of helping to rebuild the world?


KAGAN: Let's take a look at some of the latest numbers now. The overall death count stands at more than 140,000. A United Nations aid official says it might reach 150,000. And we keep getting astounding views of the damage. The satellite photograph showing a small island community in Indonesia before the Tsunami hit, just wait a second. And then you see what was left of it now. The very landscape has changed. Part of the island is simply gone.

Eight workers are only now getting to some of the most remote areas. Worldwide contributions to relief efforts exceed $2 billion.

WHITFIELD: In fact, the confirmed death toll of non-nationals from the tsunami catastrophe is 246 including U.S. citizens. Officials say the number of tourists killed is likely to rise. Many families are still desperately seeking word on their loved ones in the affected areas, but some Americans are arriving home, reuniting with thankful families and friends and sharing remarkable stories.


RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The fears and anxieties...


DORNIN: Finally erased as the Firmage family comes home. James, Vivian, Caitlin and 7-year-old Michaela outran a wall of water on Phi Phi Island in Thailand. They were on the beach and noticed the water behaving strangely.

VIVAN FIRMAGE, TSUNAMI SURVIVOR: Really sucked really far back out. And then you could just see this ridge of water. And then one of the locals tapped my little one and said, "start to run."

DORNIN: So they ran for their lives. Caitlin couldn't see what was coming, but she could hear it.

CAITLIN FIRMAGE, TSUNAMI SURVIVOR: The sound was horrible. It 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.

DORNIN: Their hotel was leveled, their belongings sucked out to sea. They spent the night on a hill with about 200 other survivors. Awed by their survival and the kindness of the local people.

JAMES FIRMAGE, TSUNAMI SURVIVOR: They were so generous. They were missing villages, and they were missing their families, and they brought up food and supplies, and we all sort of camped out on top of this jungle.

DORNIN: So much death and devastation. The Firmages said they tried to hide their girls from much of it but the images won't be forgotten, 7-year-old Michaela was keeping a journal.

MICHAELA FIRMAGE, TSUNAMI SURVIVOR: I don't know if I really want to write about it because it was pretty scary.

DORNIN: Both James and Vivian didn't think they would make it out alive, let alone make it home.

V. FIRMAGE: I can't describe it. I'm just so glad to be home. Just want to go home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And that, they did. Rusty Dornin, CNN, San Francisco.


KAGAN: There are also some miraculous survival and reunion tales coming out of southern Asia. Anderson Cooper has two of those.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): They called him the miracle boy. And today, there was one more miracle waiting for little Hanis Bergstrom, his father. The 20-month-old was separated from his parents when the tsunami hit Phuket. An American family found him unconscious, wrapped in blankets at the top of a hill. No one knew if he 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. Today his prayers were answered. But the joyous reunion was tinged with sadness. His mother is still missing. And in another Thai hospital room, another miracle, 4-year-old Viatonus (ph) saw his father for the first time since the tsunami. He was stranded in a tree without food or water for two days. His father, out in a boat in the ocean, was left floating for hours, thinking he might never see his family again.

SUTHIPONG PHA-OPAS, FATHER OF VATHANYU, (Translator): I was frightened. I did not think I would survive. The rescue team found my son, not me.

COOPER: And today there they were, a family reunited, a small glimmer of hope for those still searching for their lost loved ones.

Anderson Cooper, CNN, New York.


WHITFIELD: Monetary reality sets in eventually and questions about how much money the rebuilding will cost and where the money will come from. We look at the United States' record on giving when we come right back. Has its philosophy changed?

And then...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Suddenly this wave took up almost -- it must have been about 85 percent of the horizon and was coming towards us.

WHITFIELD: In case you missed it, a description of what it's like to have a wall of water come straight at you. Stay tuned.


WHITFIELD: Some in the tsunami disaster U.S. military planes have arrived with much needed aid relief in Jakarta. And helicopters transported food and medical help to remote regions of Indonesia. Health workers are engaged in efforts to prevent what they call a second wave of death from disease. Those efforts were compounded in Sri Lanka where flash floods forced an additional 3,000 people into refugee camps -- Daryn.

KAGAN: The U.S.'s pledge of $350 million for tsunami relief is second only to Japan's $500 million. And the state department hints more may be coming. But as CNN's Brian Todd reports, assessing America's generosity is more complicated than just a total dollar figure.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A high-level announcement with heavy numbers attached.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: President Bush has decided, and we announced from the Crawford White House a little while ago that the United States' contribution would now go up to $350 million.

TODD: This less than five days after the U.N.'s top humanitarian official fired a salvo at the wealthiest nations for their level of giving during this crisis. Many observers have been critical.

JAMES ZOGBY, ARAB AMERICAN INSTITUTE: We've done it time and time again. The role we play is convening other countries to give, and we give the smallest amount, for a country that uses a greater percentage of the world's resource, has a greater percentage of wealth and is the mightiest nation on earth.

TODD: Some economists back that up, continually pointing to the fact that America often ranks near the bottom in development assistance to other countries compared to the total value of goods and services produced in the U.S. figuring in that equation, called gross domestic products, the U.S. ranks sixth percentage wise among countries pledging aid for victims.

We spoke to a top ivy league economists, a prominent historian, and a former U.S. diplomat who coordinated massive relief efforts in southeast Asia after the Vietnam War. All agree that America's new pledge and the deployment of Colin Powell and Jeb Bush to the region are important. But they also say the United States has, over the decades, moved away from the philosophy that drove one of the most famous rebuilding projects ever undertaken by a government. Putting war-torn Europe back together.

LIONEL ROSENBLATT, REFUGEES INTERNATIONAL: I often feel that the Marshall plan was still and is still our high-water mark. And that ought to be what we emulate to do in any of these emergencies. But, you know, we haven't done that in a long time.

TODD: One historian believes experiences like the massive involvement in the Vietnam era soured the United States on the concept of pouring tremendous resources into countries far outside its borders. Many observers say that spirit has to be recaptured right now in south Asia.

KEN ROBINSON, CNN MILITARY INTEL ANALYST: In the 21st century, with this threat and the fear of having to fight the next two or three generations, as they fight this war on terrorism, it makes no sense to not aggressively go after this like a Marshall Plan. But there's a short closing window that we must take advantage of. And if not, it's ours to lose.

TODD: Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


KAGAN: And for the very latest on relief efforts in south Asia, log on to our special Web site

WHITFIELD: There you can find ways to donate. And to look up emergency hotline numbers and see even more amazing stories of survival.

Reporter Harris Whitbeck reports from an island off the coast of Sri Lanka when we come back.


HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Entire families disappeared from this small fishing community. The survivors now refer to it as the neighborhood of death. And a little over a week after the tsunami hit, few harbor hope that life will ever return.


WHITFIELD: And an indelible mark on a tiny island. That and more as CNN LIVE SATURDAY continues "Tsunami Disaster coverage.


KAGAN: Lets take a look at the stories now in the news. Rescue workers reaching more remote areas. The tsunami death toll is pushing toward 150,000. Right now, the count shows more than 140,000 dead and thousands more missing or injured.

WHITFIELD: U.S. military relief is arriving in the hardest hit areas of Indonesia. And Japan is jumping far ahead of other nations, pledging half a billion dollars for Asian relief efforts. The U.S. has increased its total by tenfold to $350 million. The overall aid effort now tops $2 billion.

KAGAN: And this country, President Bush is ordering U.S. flags to fly at half-staff next week in memory of those who died in Asia. He's also urging Americans to make donations to the relief effort at the Freedom Corporate Website, that is

WHITFIELD: On a tiny island near Sri Lanka residents are trying to find their forward as the recovery effort continues one body and one building at a time. CNN's Harris Whitbeck reports.


HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the island of Sri Lanka's eastern coast, an all too familiar scene plays itself out once again. A searcher looks for and finds the remains of yet another victim of the tsunami. As they silently watch, volunteers carefully carry the body away. Residents of this tiny island do not seem to emerge from the shock caused by the violence of nature.

(on camera): Dozens of entire families disappeared from this small fishing community. The survivors now refer to it as the "neighborhood of death." And a little over a week after the tsunami hit, few harbor hopes that life will ever return.

(voice-over): When the tsunami hit, 20-year-old Yassa had to run from his house, carrying his two small brothers, the water lapping at his knees. The terror from that day, he says, will keep him away from this land forever.

YASSA, SURVIVOR: I would like this leave here area (UNINTELLIGIBLE) live on that side.

WHITBECK: To the other side.


WHITBECK: Refugee camps are filled with people who tell similar stories. Crammed into schools and other public buildings, they bear the chaos of the camps as they wait for a solution to the abrupt changes they're have suffered. This camp is being run by Spanish firefighters who arrived in Sri Lanka, expecting to rescue survivors.

VICTOR LOPEZ, SPANISH VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTER: "We used our dogs to look for victims," he says, "but they were not successful because they're trained to look for live people, not dead bodies."

Death left its mark on the tiny island. A mark that, to many, is indelible. Harris Whitbeck, CNN, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) off Sri Lanka.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN CO-ANCHOR: And on the main island of Sri Lanka, CNN's Satinder Bindra met a boy lucky to be reunited with his mother, after the boy was knocked unconscious and swept up in the tsunami.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CO-ANCHOR: We have their story and more from the hard-hit city of Galle in southern Sri Lanka.


SATINDER BINDRA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Eight-year-old Guyan (UNINTELLIGIBLE) screams in pain. "I want my dad," he wails. All his mother can do is watch helplessly and cry herself. Last Sunday Guyan was knocked unconscious by the tsunami. Hours later, he was found by strangers who brought him to this hospital. His mother was united with him just a few hours ago.

"I was crying in the village," she says, "when someone told me that my son was alive and is in this hospital. I rushed here and found him alive." Just a few feet away, in another ward of the hospital, silence. But these faces tell a story of loss, of despair and complete helplessness. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) fractured his leg when he says a 25-foot wave swept him off his perch on a tree. "This is an unbelievable incident," he says. "We can deal with property damage, but what we cannot deal with is the loss of so many human lives."

Suniel's wife keeps a close watch over him. But it's clear she's consumed by loss. "I could only see my son's face as he was being swept away," she says. "I managed to catch him at first, but I just couldn't hold on." Little comfort that their house is still intact, but they want to return home soon so they can be reunited with their other son who's just two-and-a-half years old.

(on camera): There are 400 casualties at this hospital. Most are suffering from fractures, lacerations, and emotional trauma. Some patients were admitted here just yesterday, after being injured while running away from what they thought was another tsunami.

(voice-over): That second tsunami never came. But this 11-year- old bears the scars of the wild panic that followed the alarm and led to dozens of road accidents. For now in the room next door, little Guyan has stopped crying. But given all he has experienced, sleep eludes him. His mother is worried. She says she just can't muster the courage to tell him his elder sister and father are still missing and now presumed dead.

Satinder Bindra, CNN, Galle, southern Sri Lanka.


KAGAN: Well among the causalities, at least 246 tourists died in last Sunday's tsunami, and thousands remain missing while many tourists fled the region following the disaster, others decided to stay on and help.

CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is in Sri Lanka and has this report.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: At a time when many tourists and vacationers have vividly recounted their stories of survival and loss, one family can tell the story of their own personal relief effort. DR. W.T. MAHESWARAN, VOLUNTEER DOCTOR: Well, we have come from the U.K., from the holiday, and then we had a cut-short holiday because of the things that happened here.

DR. DHANUSHA MAHESWARAN: Sri Lanka's never had anything like this before. So, in fact, we're just in shock. And then you just think, well, OK, we can't travel around and do holiday stuff anymore and so you just think, well, I need to do something and you just do.

W.T. MAHESWARAN: Today we have visited five camps. And we have treated roughly about 400 patients.

GUPTA: The Maheswaran family emigrated to the U.K. years ago, but had managed to return to beautiful Sri Lanka for holiday every few years. But as the entire world now knows, this trip was different. Father W.T. had been a medical doctor for more than 40 years. Dr. Dhanusha is 24-years-old and had just graduated from medical school.

W.T. MAHESWARAN: We heard about this on the radio, and we were traveling -- on the car radio.

D. MAHESWARAN: It was like right here at the right time and we thought (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and feel like we should be able to do something. So we couldn't leave, really.

GUPTA: Vivia is 20-years-old and in her third year of medical school. The Maheswaran doctors have joined the handful of Sri Lanka doctors who are in their native country to offer their services.

VIVIA MAHESWARAN: Every single day, you put the TV on, and the death toll is just even higher than maybe even ten minutes ago. We feel quite lucky and just wanted to give back in some way.

GUPTA: You feel like you did some good here?


D. MAHESWARAN: It's really nice to feel like you've done something.

GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, Sri Lanka.


KAGAN: Those stories of survival continue to haunt us as we learn more about last week's tsunamis. But, surviving the flood was just the beginning for those who lived through the disaster.

WHITFIELD: Those who made it must now survive the aftermath. CNN's Atika Shubert visited a hospital in Banda Aceh in Indonesia.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These are the lucky ones. Yuda is 8-years-old, he was playing outside his house when a tsunami wave swallowed him whole. He does not remember how he got to this hospital. The only people he speaks to are Suryati and Mardianna (ph), two sisters swept by the tsunami waves. They have lost their children and 13 members of their family.

"The water was black," Suryati tells us. "I swallowed so much water as it carried me out of the village, turning me over and over. I landed on the roof of the mosque. I reached out and held on to a piece of wood with all my strength. That's what saved me."

They found Yuda weeping near the hospital morgue. "We tried to help him and get a doctor to look at his eye," Mardianna says. "His parents, his whole family, are gone."

Amidst this devastation, they have become a family.

(on camera): We came to this hospital to talk to victims like Yuda, but within minutes we were surrounded by other victims, people looking for their missing family members, all with their own horrific stories, everyone of them asking why the world hasn't responded faster to this horrific disaster in Aceh.

(voice-over): Everyone in this hospital has lost at least one family member. They tell stories of entire villages wiped out, bodies as far as they can see. This man cries to us, "Please tell the world, where is America? Please help to round up the bodies. There is no one left to save. Just help us bury the dead."

This hospital has virtually no doctors or staff, either killed or searching for their own missing families. This Malaysian volunteer was the first doctor we saw. He has covered major earthquakes before. This, he says, is the worst he's seen.

DR. QUAN, PHYSICIAN: They've got no water, Sanitation is zero. Their commodes are overflowing. There is no access to clean water, right now. People are sleeping on the streets. There's no food. Most of the people over here, they haven't eaten in about three days.

SHUBERT: Mercy Malaysia was the first international aid agency in Aceh. More help is needed.

QUAH: I don't think anyone expected anything like this. No one expected it, and it happened so fast.

SHUBERT: Until more help arrives, Mardianna, Suryati, and Yuda are doing the best they can, if only to comfort each other.

Atika Shubert, CNN, Banda Aceh, Indonesia.


KAGAN: A family vacationing in Thailand ended up coming to the rescue of dozens when the tsunami hit.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You just do what has to be done. There were -- we didn't really ever question what we had to do. You know, you grab as many people that you can grab right away and get them to safety.


KAGAN: Their story when CNN LIVE SATURDAY returns.

WHITFIELD: And then another story of survival, this one from amidst the wreckage of a passenger train.


WHITFIELD: Now for some remarkable stories of heroism and survival. A California family was on a sailing adventure when they found themselves thrust in harm's way and into the role of life- savers. CNN's Ted Rowlands has their story.


TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the scene they left behind.

JOHN HANKY, TSUNAMI SURVIVOR: The wave come this way...

ROWLANDS: Back home in southern California, Julie Scibolewski and John Hanky are telling their incredible story of survival and heroism. With Julie's 25-year-old son, Casey, the three were on day seven of ten days sailing off the coast of Thailand when the tsunami hit.

HANKY: We didn't know how big it was going to be, that it was going to be as big as it was, but we were kind of aware that something big was about to happen.

ROWLANDS: Their boat, one of many in the water at the time, was headed towards a popular sandbar.

JULIE SCIBOLEWSKI, TSUNAMI SURVIVOR: It gets bigger and bigger and then the next thing I notice is that the sandbar and the people on it are just gone.

ROWLANDS: Because of location behind the sandbar, they were able to withstand the waves. Other boats were not.

SCIBOLEWSKI: As soon as that water hit those boats, they just pretty much blew apart. And now there are all these people in the water, hanging on to pieces of wood or parts of boats, yelling, "Help me! Help me!"

HANKY: You just do what has to be done. There were -- we didn't really ever question what we had to do, you know, you grab as many people that you can grab right away, and get them to safety.

ROWLANDS: As John and Julie pulled people into the boat, Casey jumped into a dingy, a small rubber motorboat, to pick up as many children and people without life jackets as possible.

SCIBOLEWSKI: They were very scared and shocked, and they were yelling, "Children! Children!" they didn't speak much English, about enough to say "help me" and "thank you," a lot of "thank you."

ROWLANDS: After dropping off 21 people, they went back and found more, including this group stranded on a rock. They also pulled in a woman who was dead.

SCIBOLEWSKI: She was a snorkeler, and she was in the area where we were headed to snorkel.

HANKY: She still had a mask on. She had been snorkeling. She still had goggles on her face.

ROWLANDS: By the time the sun went down they had been at it six hours. All told, they believe they pulled 35 people from the water.

HANKY: Ten minutes either way could have made a big difference for not only ourselves, but the 35 people we pulled out of the water.

ROWLANDS: They didn't realize the scope of the disaster until much later.

SCIBOLEWSKI: Made me think a little about how important our family and our relationships and our friends are and how we're really just here for a short time.

ROWLANDS: Ted Rowlands, CNN, Oceanside, California.


KAGAN: And now the story of a British man on a train in salon telling a remarkable story of survival. The passenger train had almost reached its destination and had come to a stop in rising waters when it was swept off the tracks by the raging tsunami. Around 1,000 passengers died. Here now, CNN's Becky Anderson with his story.


SHENTH RAVINDRA, TSUNAMI SURVIVOR: Suddenly I felt a shunt and the train moved off the tracks. I could see it being dis-attached from the other -- from the other carriages and then as the water started to rush in the train's carriage started to tilt like this, at which point I fell against one of the doorways and water started to fill up -- up into my neck.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Shenth Ravindra believes he may be one of only five western survivors from the train caught up in the Asian tsunami the day after Christmas.

RAVINDRA: There was a lot of panic, you know, a lot of people hysterical. A lot of the children were grabbing hold of me, and people around, and a, like, lot of the mothers of children who -- like, there was one particular mother who had about three or four children around her and obviously, she didn't have enough arms to hold her children, she was imploring me to grab hold of her children and look after her children, which I did, so I was trying to grab hold of as many as possible as well as secure myself on the train for when the second wave hit. ANDERSON: He caught the Queen of the South Columbia for a trip to Galle, a journey that he describes as a pilgrimage. Then just before the train reached its destination, disaster struck. Massive killer waves that slammed into Sri Lanka threw the train off its tracks, leaving many of its more than 1,000 passengers dead or missing.

RAVINDRA: There was a sea of dead bodies, children and women, mainly and 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 that moment in time.

ANDERSON: At Heathrow Airport on Thursday, a tearful reunion for Shenth and his mother, a devout Hindu who says her son is lucky to be alive.

Rescuers have so far recovered just over 200 bodies from the train's eight carriages, now scattered about in a sickening wasteland of twisted metal. The dead were cremated or buried next to the railroad track that runs along the coastline.

RAVINDRA: I'm counting my lucky stars, to be perfectly honest, and it's been a bit difficult. I haven't really had time to sit down and think about exactly what's happened, bit I know it's an unbelievable sequence of events that enabled me to escape in the first place and the train, the house, going through the farm, the line, coming back. But -- yeah, I won't be complaining about being unlucky in anything in life ever again. I think I'm a very lucky person.


WHITFIELD: To say the very least.

KAGAN: Yeah, absolutely.

WHITFIELD: Wow. Well, remember the FBI agent who went public, complaining that the agency blew a chance to prevent 9/11?

KAGAN: I do.

WHITFIELD: Well, there's a report now that Coleen Rowley is making a career move. That story's coming up.

KAGAN: Also, a look at one of New Year's most enduring and dazzling spectacles. Stay with us.


BRAD HUFFINES, CNN METEOROLOGIST: On the heels of the tsunami a week ago, a look at how much rain has fallen in Sri Lanka. Yesterday a monsoon-type rainfall came over the island yesterday, dumping between 10 and 14 inches of rain on the northern part of Sri Lanka. You're looking at the Indian Ocean here, Thailand and, of course, Sumatra. Just offshore from Sumatra, is where the earthquake was centered, last week. Three weeks ago, again, we had mudslides in northern Sri Lanka and look at the precip cast through Monday. More rain showers developing and moving towards Sri Lanka into Sunday night and Monday. More flooding rains are possible in Sri Lanka as the monsoon season is really kicking off across the Indian Ocean.

KAGAN: Thank you, Brad.

Let's take a look at what's happening, making news across America. In Pasadena, Sleeping Beauty's castle hit the road just. It's one of the fantastic floats from this year's Tournament of Roses Parade. There were 50 floats in the 116th version of the New Year's Day tradition. Celebrate family was this year's theme.

The Minneapolis "Star Tribune" says that FBI agent Coleen Rowley has retired. Rowley, you might remember, gained notoriety for a memo blasting the bureau for missing a chance to prevent the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. She says supervised blundered by blocking a request for a search warrant for possessions of terror suspect Zacarias Moussaoui.

A New Year's party run by a religious group took a wrong turn in North Dakota. Thirty-six children were injured in a sledding accident. Police say more than 100 children at the Youth for Christ event gathered at 4:00 a.m. to sled down the hill. The sleds were made from cardboard boxes; they hit rocks, a light pole and each other, say police. A sign posted on the hill also prohibited sledding.

WHITFIELD: Well, finally, tonight, we're living through an epic disaster whose full scope may never be known. The images, however, have left many speechless. Perhaps the best way to understand the magnitude of the disaster and the fragility of life is to capture this moment in time through still photos. Beth Nissan has this look.


BETH NISSEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After all the home video of the tsunami, it is startling to see it in a photograph, to see what witnesses meant by a wall of water, to see captured in a frame, what the monstrous waves did to resorts and villages in Thailand, southern India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka. To see what the churning water did to people in these places only vaguely remembered from high school geography. Tamil Nadu, Nicobar and Mudras, and Sumatra, Colombo.

It all happened so fast, the waves and mud and debris, burying the old and the young, especially the young. Those two small or too weak to hold on to anything as the water surged in or pull themselves to safety before the receding waves pulled them out to sea. The still pictures could hardly show the scope of human losses in their mounting thousands. But they could show the loss face by face.

It all happened so fast, so little time for ceremony, the marking of a life. Officials struggle to keep records of the dead. Volunteers hurried to build coffins, fill them, close them, and send the enclosed souls onward.

Even days later, so many souls were still missing. Relatives searched for survivors. Survivors searched for their families. Dazed, battered tourists went home to Sweden and Norway, Germany and New Zealand, South Korea and South Africa. Dazed respects were evacuated by the thousands to higher, drier ground. Those who could, stayed where they were in what was left of home, collected water, collected food, stood in line for both and for fuel.

Slowly rubbled air strips were cleared. The first of the aid from around the world arrived. Emergency water supplies, critical medicines, fat sacks of food, bundles of clothing. Tent villages were set up for millions of the suddenly homeless; the wounded were treated in hospitals hastily cleared of debris in open-air clinics set up on beaches. Doctors readied for the next wave of the disaster, disease, with tetanus shots, anti-malarials. There was little anyone could prepare survivors for the hardest part of what is to come: Simply going on. Millions are still stunned by loss, so much life and hope washed away, so little to hold on to except faith that those so violently wrenched from the world have found peace. Faith that those left behind in the world will again find peace. Somehow, somewhere, someday.

Beth Nissen, CNN, New York.


WHITFIELD: Next hour, survivors in Asia tell their stories in a 24-minute, uninterrupted special report. Stay with CNN.


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