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Relief Efforts Under Way in Tsunami-Ravaged Parts of Asia

Aired January 1, 2005 - 20:00   ET


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Carol Lin.
More special coverage of the tsunami disaster in just a moment.

But here's what's happening right now.

U.S. relief efforts are under way in tsunami ravaged Asia. American military helicopters are delivering medical teams and water and supplies to desperate survivors in Indonesia's Aceh Province. The U.S. has pledged $350 million in aid.

The United Nations is praising the generosity of the U.S. and other relief donor nations.


JAN EGELAND, U.N. EMERGENCY RELIEF COORDINATOR: I am overjoyed by seeing the outpouring of assistance to the tsunami victims. We have now on the sixth day or the seventh day of the crisis, it's not even a week yet, we have $2 billion pledged for the emergency phase and also for the recovery phase. That is more than all money pledged in all of 2004 for all other humanitarian emergencies that the U.N. is coordinating.


LIN: Also, members of a Sri Lankan community near Washington, D.C. attended a memorial service this afternoon. It was organized by a member of the Catholic parish in Potomac, Maryland. More than 45,000 Sri Lankans were killed by the tsunamis.

Assassins have struck again in Iraq. This time, insurgents killed the chairman of a provincial council in Ba'qubah, which is northeast of Baghdad. The man's brother was also killed.

Confetti, noisemakers and tons of other trash have been cleared away from Times Square. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg thanked sanitation workers today for their efforts. Now, despite the massive crowd last night, police arrested only a handful of people on disorderly conduct charges and one man for carrying a loaded rifle.

The scene today in Boston was also repeated in other parts of the country. Some hearty souls observed New Year's Day with an annual polar plunge. The swimmers enjoyed unusually warm weather in Boston, but they endured 20 degrees in Chicago and Minneapolis. Sierra Nevada residents are digging out from as much as eight feet of snow. Three to four feet fell on Nevada mountains and up to a foot in the mountains of Colorado. Forecasters expect more snow and rain in California throughout the weekend. There have been at least nine storm related deaths in Western states.

Turning back to the tsunami catastrophe, health workers in the affected registrations are working hard to head off a second wave of fatalities that could come from the spread of disease. We are going to look at how they're going to try to prevent deadly epidemics of cholera, malaria and other illnesses at 10:00 Eastern on a special edition of "CNN SATURDAY NIGHT."

"CNN PRESENTS," which is normally shown at this time, is being preempted. CNN is going to continue our in depth coverage of the tsunami disaster with help from our sister network, CNN International.

Anchor Hugh Riminton has more of our coverage from South Asia.

HUGH RIMINTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: A giant wall of water sweeps across Asia, destroying everything in its path, shattering millions of lives in an instant.

MIKE CHINOY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is beyond anything that I have ever seen in 30 years as a foreign correspondent in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. There is, at a certain point, you run out of words to describe it. It's almost of biblical proportions.

RIMINTON: Hello, I'm Hugh Riminton in Beruwalu, Sri Lanka.

Well, we've seen scenes over this past week that are, strictly speaking, beyond our imagination. No one could possibly have foretold it. This is a disaster for the generations, beyond human memory.

In the blink of an eye, this week across so much of Asia, the Indian Ocean, all the way across through Africa, millions of lives have been irrevocably altered.

As we go to air, the death toll remains measureless, in a strict sense. No one knows how many people have died.

It all began with an earthquake below sea level off the coast of Indonesia.

Over the next hour, we're going to look at some of the stories we brought you as this story unfolded, as the world slowly began to grasp what, in fact, had taken place. In all, 11 countries have suffered loss of life through this earthquake and tsunami disaster.

Bill Neely filed one of the early reports on how all this began to unfold.


BILL NEELY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It looked like a perfect day. The sea, blue and calm. Tourists strolling on the sand. And then it changed.

The first of the waves that swept thousands away.


NEELY: As the second wave rolls in, the first begins to swallow the town, street by street. The tourists trapped on balconies must decide to stay or jump into the debris that would kill so many. Further up the Malay Coast, another resort is pounded. The tourists keep filming until it's clear there's worse on the way. Each time the sea recedes it seems over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's coming again! It's coming again!



NEELY: These tourists realize they now have to run for their lives.


NEELY: All this in Malaysia, which got off lightly, with 60 dead. Elsewhere, it was carnage.

It all began in Indonesia and it turned the land to sea, striking at 7:00 in the morning as people slept. The death toll here doubled today, with 10,000 feared dead and the known dead laid out in red, the stench and the sights hard to bear. One by one, the victims are gathered. So many sleeping children had no chance. Bodies litter the streets. Nothing like this has ever hit in modern times and the panic continued today, the crowds fleeing the coast at every sign of a swelling sea.

Yet at first they were slow to see the danger. After the first wave, thousands went back to look at the damage. Then the most deadly wall of water struck. The sea bed had fallen and a thousand miles of water above was on the move.

At 300 miles an hour, it has made islands where there were none. This is India and here, too, thousands are dead and thousands unaccounted for. The mourning is not only for the dead, because so many of these people have lost everything. Up to one million are homeless. And here, too, it is the children who had the least chance. The men pull ashore bodies from the sea. Few of the women can swim. They fill the lists of the dead and the missing.

Nearly 200 pilgrims were killed on one Indian beach, where they'd gone for a ritual bath in the sea. The survivors are handled gently, but it's hard to treat them properly. In India's worst hit areas, many medical centers have been destroyed. On the beaches today, they laid candles and prayed for hundreds of missing fishermen. They made a huge sculpture of the sand that choked so many here.

On the Indian Ocean islands of the Maldives, the sea is in the streets and people move at their peril because even now, its speed and debris can be deadly. This is one of the world's most exclusive holiday destinations, but the millionaire's paradise was a hell for an hour and one they'll never forget here.

This isn't Asia, it's nearly 4,000 miles away, in East Africa, where the waves crashed ashore. This is Kenya. In Somalia, a dozen died.

This was an awesome, appalling and extraordinary event, the power of nature against the flimsy will of man. There was only one winner and tens of thousands of losers. In 40 years, there's been nothing like this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get into this building! Hey!

NEELY: The earthquake that caused this was more powerful than all the quakes of the past five years put together, 750 times more powerful than last year's quake in Iran that killed 30,000.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get inside! Come on guys!

NEELY: This was devastating, deadly and deceptive, coming from beneath the sea, catching millions unawares, killing tens of thousands and leaving a vast swath of the Earth tonight in shock and in mourning.


RIMINTON: CNN has an extensive team working all angles of this story across Asia. We have reporters in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, even the remote Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

But we first turn to the Indonesian province of Aceh. Eyewitnesses report incredible devastation there.

RIMINTON: Here, this shocked family in Banda Aceh watched from the second floor of their home as water engulfed the town, devouring almost everything in its path. The tsunamis killed one out of every four people in Aceh. People, whole towns, simply disappeared.

Our senior Asian correspondent, Mike Chinoy, has been reporting from Aceh.

Here is one of his early reports from the scene.

We should warn you, it does contain some disturbing material.


MIKE CHINOY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We've heard the astronomical numbers but nothing can prepare you for a scene like this -- the remains of men, women and children, about a thousand, the workers say, piled high for burial in a mass grave. The stench is overpowering, contaminating the area, felling bystanders. The grief is equally powerful. "I lost everyone and everything" says 30-year-old Yus Niati, "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." But Yus Niati knows where her 3-year-old is. She found his body in the street and brought him here.

(on camera): This scene is so horrible, there are no words to describe it. And what makes it even more awful is the fact that the bodies behind me are just a small fraction of the overall number who died here.

(voice-over): "There are still a lot of bodies out there," says Alam Sol (ph), "because so much of Banda Aceh was flooded by the waves."

There's no dignity in this kind of death. It feels more like a garbage dump than a grave. But in their desperate struggle to bury decomposing bodies before the danger of epidemics grows even greater, the authorities have little choice.

Mike Chinoy, CNN, Banda Aceh, Indonesia.


RIMINTON: It took a few days for the full scale of the devastation in Aceh to emerge. It's a remote part of Indonesia, at the northern tip of Sumatra. It's also been the scene of a long running separatist conflict that has kept it off limits to outsiders. Well, Indonesia will need outsiders now if it is to rebuild.

CNN's Atika Shubert had that report.


ATIKA SCHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): To understand the level of devastation here, see it from the air. More than 80 percent of the structures destroyed. Because of its location, this was the first area to be hit. Because of its isolation, it was the last to receive help.

We flew in with two private planes that hoped to deliver food and water by being the first to land on the last one quarter of the town's airstrip still intact. It was close, but they made it.

There are few words to describe the total devastation on the ground. Multi-story buildings reduced to cement foundations; markets, schools demolished. Bodies swell in the baking sun. Death toll estimates are anywhere between 10,000 to 20,000, sparking fears that anywhere between a quarter to one half of the town's population may have been killed.

This survivor was so bewildered, so desperate, he turned to visiting journalists for comfort. "Everything is gone" this man cries. "All my children are gone."

Aid is finally trickling in by sea and by air. Now that pilots know they can safely land on the damaged airstrip, more will come. An Army helicopter has arrived with aid and a Navy ship unloads supplies in the harbor.

Because of the insurgency, there were already a lot of military personnel in the region. They are the only infrastructure left. Everything else has been destroyed.

Soldiers distribute what they can despite dwindling fuel supplies. They, too, have been hard hit, hundreds of their colleagues missing, believed dead, many of their wives and children gone.

But the biggest surprise in this isolated and decimated town is the will to survive. Surrounded by death and destruction, with little or no aid from outside up until now, survivors still manage to pick through what is left, looking for anything that will help them to carry on.

Atika Schubert CNN, Meubolah, Indonesia.


RIMINTON: We'll take a break now.

When we return, we'll take a look at Sri Lanka, an island paradise now in mourning.

And then heading north to India, where coastal residents, like so many in this region, are trying now to rebuild their lives.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We should now get together in this misery and make this an opportunity for us to come back glorious as a nation of a united people.



RIMINTON: The tsunamis swept away or damaged almost every building along Sri Lanka's vast southern and eastern coastline. Tens of thousands of people died. More than a million have been forced from their homes.

Welcome back to Beruwalu, Sri Lanka.

Now, over the past few days, we've been seeing the devastation of these tsunamis along this Sri Lankan coastline. We've seen entire towns destroyed. We've seen trains simply wiped off railway lines with a massive loss of life. We've seen the things that have followed, the bodies being removed, laid out on the ground, unidentified, being buried in mass graves.

We've seen hospitals overwhelmed by the influx of the injured being treated as best as can be, and then many of them simply left to lie there in bloodied bandages while many of them ponder what's happened to loved ones that they last saw in swirling waters along the coastline.


STAN GRANT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They lived here together, they died here together -- children, not mere victims, children, swamped by the power of the tsunami that flattened all around them. Where once was the town of Mullaitiva, there is ruin. The last moments of life captured like still images. The church where hours before there'd been prayer. The child care center where laughter was silenced.

MIKE PICKERING, AID WORKER: That's pretty messed up.

GRANT (on camera): Were you there?

PICKERING: Yes. There is a lot of food aid getting through, the World Food Program. And our biggest thing now is to get them shelter and get them clothing back on and get their (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

GRANT: Aid workers offering what they can. It is difficult. This is not just a disaster zone. It's also a war zone. After a 20 year civil war, this area of north and northeast Sri Lanka is a rebel Tamil Tiger stronghold. Aid agencies must work with them.

JAMES MARTIN, ARBEITER-SAMARER-BUND: The idea of a Tamil singular separation seems somewhat less relevant. I saw cues of trucks outside the authorities here get donated by the Singhalese people in the south and I felt very heartened by that.

GRANT: The terrain is tough. Roads here heavily potholed. Everywhere there are warnings of land mines, all adding to the stress of providing relief. And relief is very much needed. The Tamil Tigers estimate 14,000 are dead in the north and northeast. Another 5,000 missing will take that death toll, they say, closer to 20,000. As they find the bodies, they cremate them.

(on camera): We can see these bodies behind me as victims, as just one of the many numbers of thousands who have been killed by this tsunami. Or you can see these people as I have, as human beings, as someone who stood here and looked as three little babies, just babies, just babies, no more than perhaps two or three years old, little children who would last weekend have been playing here on the beach and moments later have lost their lives and now, like so many others, now being added to the funeral pyres that are littering northern Sri Lanka.

(voice-over): Then there are those left, crying because they remember too much.

Stan Grant, CNN, Mullaitiva, north Sri Lanka.


RIMINTON: The tsunami came and hit Sri Lanka's second largest city. It's the old Portuguese town of Galle.

From Galle, Satinder Bindra filed one of our early reports.


SATINDER BINDRA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This eyewitness video obtained by CNN shows a 20-feet high tidal wave ripping through the southern Sri Lankan town of Galle. The savage sea consumes everything in its wake -- homes, cars, vans and furniture. Terrified residents try to find cover. Many don't make it.

Within seconds, hundreds in this town, many of them children, are engulfed by the raging waters. Doctors say most of the children died of trauma injuries. Others drowned. Galle's more able-bodied adults survived by clamoring upon buses. As the waters receded, these survivors had the unbearable task of taking their loved ones home. Others frantically search everywhere for their family members. Unable to find them, their grief explodes.

Thousands in this world-famous beach resort and across Sri Lanka are still missing, but hopes of finding any more survivors are fading fast. Rescue workers in Galle are now only pulling out badly decomposed corpses.

(on camera): Over the past two days, more than 800 bodies have been brought to this hospital alone. With 300 of them still unidentified, hospital staff here are now organizing mass burials.

(voice-over): Fearing the spread of illness and disease, authorities organize a massive clean-up. Mangled cars are pulled out from under tons of rubble. Dozens and dozens of such buses will soon end up in the scrap yard. These holiday season signs seem eerily out of place in this grief stricken city. No one here wants to participate in New Year's celebrations. Sri Lanka has already declared five days of national mourning and all Galle's residents can think of is thousands of their countrymen, friends and family members, who will not be with them in the new year.

Satinder Bindra, CNN, Galle, southern Sri Lanka.


RIMINTON: North of Sri Lanka in India, there were similar stories of loss and grief.

Funeral pyres burned throughout the southern state of Tamil Nadu. There was no time to identify all the victims. As of last count, more than 10,000 people have been killed in India.

Kasra Naji had this report from southern India.


KASRA NAJI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is Iopen (ph), a Hindu fisherman grieving the loss of his 1-year-old daughter. He buried her on Monday. On Friday, he sits by her grave clutching her red socks he's just found. Nearby, a cluster of mass graves of hundreds of villagers. Many here are in shock. No one knows for sure how many have died or how many are missing.

This is Nagore, some 350 kilometers, 200 miles, south of the Indian city of Chennai and one of the worst hit areas on India's eastern coast.

But something good may still come out of this massive tragedy. Iopen says in his rush to save his daughter, he himself was nearly drowned, only saved by two Muslims from a neighboring village, who later had to be dragged out from the water themselves by Iopen, extending a wooden pole. They are now best friends.

This tragedy has transcended all religious differences in a country which is often in the news for communal violence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's Irbimi (ph). I'm (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Hindu. We are not thinking Muslims, Hindu, brothers (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Christians, nothing.

NAJI (on camera): Many people have taken refuge in places of worship like this mosque. In fact, half the people who have taken shelter here are non-Muslims. This tragedy has helped cement the community like never before.

(voice-over): Some thousand people of all religions are receiving food and shelter here, provided by many different aid agencies, some of them religious-based.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, this is not in a time to see the separation -- there are the Muslims, there are the Hindus, there are the Christians. We cannot do it like this.

NAJI: Here, showing off some of the most prized possessions they have managed to save, something to talk about with their new friends.

Kasra Naji, CNN, Nagore, southern India.


RIMINTON: We'll take a short break to update you on the latest news from around the world and then back to our special report on this tsunami disaster.

We'll take a look back at some of those reports out of Thailand. Hundreds of Western tourists are still missing.

Stay with us.


LIN: Hello there.

I'm Carol Lin.

Special coverage of the tsunami disaster continues in just a moment.

But first, here's a quick check of what's happening right now in the news.

Relief aid is arriving in the more remote and devastated parts of Indonesia. You can see the urgency of the situation by the way survivors are scrambling here for supplies. Even veteran U.S. military personnel engaged in relief efforts are shocked by the destruction.


C.P.O. GERRY SCHWARZ, U.S. NAVY: 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 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.


LIN: Pope John Paul II is praising the generous response to the tsunami disaster. He celebrated a special mass today, praying for the victims. The pope says the outpouring of aid in the wake of such devastation is a sign of hope for the new year.

A California television station is helping to raise money for victims of the tsunamis. KSCI-TV, which airs a lot of Asian programming, is holding a telethon today to collect donations for the Red Cross and World Vision relief funds. Both charities are channeling aid to locations across Southern Asia.

And U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan plans to visit the tsunami- ravaged registrations after next week's donor conference in Jakarta, Indonesia. World governments have pledged $2 billion in relief. United Nations officials are calling that very generous. But they warn more will be needed.

For the latest on the relief efforts in South Asia, you can log onto our special Web site at Right there, you can find ways to make donations and look up emergency hotline numbers and see amazing stories of survival.

Another tragedy, this one by fire. Survivors of a deadly nightclub in Buenos Aires say emergency exits were locked, keeping many people from escaping. A hundred eighty-six people were killed and more than 700 were injured Thursday when someone set off a flare during a show. The club's owner was detained Friday. Police are also searching for three business partners.

An Atlantic right whale is swimming freely today off the coast of South Carolina. Rescuers freed the young whale Friday from 150 feet of lobster fishing gear that was wrapped around it. Scientists say if they had not untangled it from the equipment, the whale could have died. Doctors fear disease could cause a second wave of death in the regions of Asia devastated by the tsunamis. Unsanitary conditions could bring outbreaks of cholera, phenomena, malaria and other diseases. We are going to show you how medical relief workers are working to keep that from happening at 10:00 Eastern on a special edition of "CNN SATURDAY NIGHT."

More news later.

But right now, back to special coverage from South Asia on the tsunami and the aftermath.

RIMINTON: These amateur videos show the horror that morning in Thailand. Early morning strollers and sunbathers found themselves among the thousands suddenly fighting for their lives. Families were separated. Bungalows were swept away. Buildings crumbled as the land became the sea.

Welcome back.

I'm Hugh Riminton in Beruwalu, Sri Lanka.

Now, local people across South Asia were overwhelmingly the victims of this tsunami disaster. In Thailand, however, it was a different story. There, at least a third of the people killed and missing were foreign tourists. Christmas is peak holiday season in Thailand. The picture perfect beaches were packed full of people enjoying this Christmas break. Many of them will never now return home.

Peter Lloyd filed this story from Thailand as the full scale of the disaster there started to become apparent. And we warn you that it does contain some graphic images.


PETER LLOYD, REPORTER (voice-over): They are everywhere -- Europeans who died not in the hundreds but thousands. The stench is overwhelming. There are almost no buildings left in this, the worst hit area. So a Buddhist temple has become a makeshift mortuary. They lost count at 600 bodies here, and there are three other receiving centers nearby that are just as full. Remains just keep on coming by the truckload. Thailand's top forensic scientist has a team racing against time to photograph victims and collect DNA samples for what is shaping as a monumental identification process.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is really, really awful area. It's very awful. And we're sorry for the families and for everything that we don't know what happened.

LLOYD: We arrived to find pickup trucks loaded with dead and scenes of bewilder and destruction. They are finding human remains all through splintered buildings and strewn debris. It is a health crisis in the making.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are worried about that. So we try to finish the job as soon as possible, hopefully in few days.

LLOYD: This pretty stretch of coastline was a playground for foreign holiday-makers. They were staying in beachfront resorts when huge waves rolled in, bringing hell on high water.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Then the door exploded, literally exploded, and the water came into the bedroom. In eight seconds the room was full up. I dived to get to the other side. I don't know how I managed to get out. I really don't know.

LLOYD: But in the ruins of Khao Lak, there are precious few stories of survival.

(on camera): On the ground, it's easy to see how so many hundreds of people could have died. These are scenes of utter devastation up and down Khao Lak. It's hard to believe that this was once one of Thailand's most sought after and luxurious resorts.

(voice-over): Scores of locals died, too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "The wave picked her over there." He said, "But, I lost my wife." And everything lose in seven minutes.

LLOYD: We rode with a crew towing bodies recovered from the village, a tireless volunteer force who have gone without sleep for days. En route they were called on to pick up more. Army recruits had found a handful of Europeans hundreds of meters inland.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): I'm rather pleased to be able to help people, no matter Thai or foreigners. I think this is an opportunity to give and I'm proud of what I'm doing.

LLOYD: It is a country that prides itself on hospitality at the best and now worst of times.

(on camera): A team of Australian police forensic experts have arrived to begin helping in the disaster identification process. They will be using skills honed in the Bali investigation, but at Khao Lak they will be confronted by not hundreds, but thousands of dead people.


RIMINTON: Some of the images from Thailand were reminiscent of the scenes in New York after the September 11 attacks -- relatives, desperate friends started to post up images of their loved ones in the hope that someone might have seen them. But there was also a bulletin board that the officials put up in the hope that it might help identify those that they had found.

ITN's Adrian Britton filed this report from Phuket, Thailand.


ADRIAN BRITTON, REPORTER, ITV NEWS (voice-over): There is no easy way of breaking the news.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sophie (ph)? Sophie?

BRITTON: The death toll is so high that people have no option but to view a picture gallery of the deceased to discover friends or family have been killed. The pain of looking at faces they once cherished now appallingly disfigured. But shining through the despair is human determination to find relatives alive. Luke Simon from Somerset was separated from his brother on Phi Phi Beach. Maybe, just maybe, someone will recognize his face.

LUKE SIMON, BROTHER MISSING: And the last thing I saw him and he was between a wall and a building, a concrete building, which is about four feet wide. And that filled up with water quite quickly. So I have reason to believe that he just got swept away somewhere.

BRITTON: And these are the lost children of the tsunami -- smiling faces of youngsters. Among them, two Swedish brothers who were enjoying a Christmas family holiday.

One of the worst hit areas of the country was Khao Lak Beach, nearly 1,000 killed. Amid the task to clear the bodies, there is colossal salvage work, as well.

(on camera): We're now in Kamala. And like other resorts we've seen, it looks as though a tornado has ripped through it. And the reason why so many people are missing is because when the tidal waves came in, they had to go out again. And that's when husband was swept away from wife and child from parent, many children not strong enough to hold on. In fact, we may never know how many people were taken out to sea.

(voice-over): Adrian Britton, ITV News, Phuket.


RIMINTON: The kindness of strangers is making the agony in southern Thailand just a little bit more bearable. Hundreds of volunteers have come into the decimated coastal and tourist towns doing anything they can to help those bewildered and grieving tourists.

CNN's Aneesh Raman filed this report from southern Thailand.


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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me go in. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) someone they knew, their family. It's all so sad.

RAMAN: Ton lives 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.

(on camera): There are thousands of volunteers like Ton Tai coming here from all over Thailand, fueling this massive relief effort. This is a country that often finds compassion in crisis.

(voice-over): American Tony Carney has lived in Thailand for well over a decade. The sights he sees now are nothing new.

TONY CARNEY, AMERICAN RESIDENT OF THAILAND: There's a concept in Thailand, in Thai culture, that doesn't even translate into the English language. The word is namtaie (ph), which, translating loosely, is 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. Ton and many like him are the core of Thailand's relief effort.


RAMAN: Waving above the scene of sadness, Thailand's flag, at half mast for its own people and the countless travelers who also perished here.

Aneesh Raman, CNN, Phuket, southern Thailand.


RIMINTON: There are hundreds of islands in the Indian Ocean. Many of them were completely exposed as these waves raced across the ocean at speeds of up to 800 kilometers an hour. Taking the brunt of it was the remote island chains of Andaman and Nicobar Island. Then, there were the aftershocks that triggered fresh tsunami warnings. They sent people running from the sea earlier this week. People have lost so much, they're so much still on edge.

Suhasini Haidar has our report.


SUHASINI HAIDAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, Kanaka Vasin (ph) will use what's left of her home as firewood to cook a meal for her family. She and her husband have to wade through water to take stock of their tsunami destroyed house and gift shop.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It'll take years to rebuild what we have here," she says.

HAIDAR: But many won't stay to rebuild. On this island of Nicobar, part of an archipelago in the Indian Ocean that bore the brunt of the killer waves, hundreds of men and women say there is nothing left to live on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "We stayed in the forest for two nights without food. The children just cried and cried." HAIDAR: The tsunami took her home and her uncle. Nina Walters (ph) exhausted, but says she and her children won't rest until they're safely taken somewhere else.

At least one in four people on this island has been killed, injured or has lost a loved one. With so much suffering and trauma, government officials say it would be inhuman to force them to stay here. The Indian military is now coordinating a dual operation.

(on camera): Their pilots are working around the clock, each plane bringing in with it food, water and medicine, and taking out as many survivors as they can.

(voice-over): So many people are desperate to leave, there aren't even enough to help unload relief supplies and officials make the evacuees do the work before they can board.

Nina Walter and her family are lucky to get on the plane today. It'll be hard to find a job and a home on the main Andaman Islands where they are going, she says, but not as hard as staying here, where the tsunamis swallowed her world.

Suhasini Haidar, CNN, Nicobar Island in the Indian Ocean.


RIMINTON: We'll take another quick break.

When we return, the youngest and most vulnerable victims in all of this -- children.

And then, the lucky ones, the survivors. They escaped with their lives, but their lives will never be the same.

Stay with us.


RIMINTON: The devastation in Indonesia's Aceh Province is so vast, it defies belief. The once bustling port of Banda Aceh is now a jumbled pile of debris. Survivors wander through the ruins, stunned and in deep shock, looking for friends and family.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But my friend here, they're dead. I don't have nobody. I have nothing but, nothing less.


RIMINTON: Welcome back.

Many of the survivors in Aceh wound up at the hospital in the battered provincial capital of Banda Aceh. A great number of them had nothing left to their names but the clothes on their back.

CNN's Atika Shubert had that report.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These are the lucky ones. Uda (ph) 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 Suriati (ph) and Mardiana (ph), two sisters swept by the tsunami waves. They have lost their children and 13 members of their family.

"The water was black," Suriati tell 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 Uda weeping near the hospital morgue. "We tried to help him and get a doctor to look at his eye," Mardiana says. "His parents, his whole family, are gone."

In the midst of this devastation, they have become a family.

(on camera): We came to this hospital to talk to victims like Uda, but within minutes we were surrounded by other victims, people looking for their missing family members, all with their own horrific stories, every one 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. QUAH, 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 is 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, Mardiana, Suriati and Uda are doing the best they can, if only to comfort each other.

Atika Shubert, CNN, Banda Aceh, Indonesia.

(END VIDEOTAPE) RIMINTON: Children may pay the greatest price from this disaster. More than a third of the victims may have been children, too weak to have withstood the enormous forces of nature that were unleashed in this disaster.

Anderson Cooper had that story. And once again, we warn you, the story does have some disturbing images.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Their grief is nearly too much to bear, parents whose precious children were suddenly pulled out to sea or crushed by the oncoming water, their young lives lost in the crash of a wave. In Thailand and India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia, desperate parents search for their children on the streets and in the morgues, hoping, praying their babies are still alive.

The images are haunting. A mother searches through lifeless bodies looking for her child. A father carries the body of his dead child. Parents without children, children without parents. This boy cries out for his mother as she is laid to rest. According to UNICEF, one third of the tens of thousands of lives lost in the tsunami are children, the littlest victims, too young to understand the wrath of nature, too small to escape the danger.

CAROL BELLAMY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, UNICEF: Kids are the least able to run, the least able to hold on -- they can run, but the least able to withstand the flooding or holding on. So that's one of the reasons children have particularly been affected.

COOPER: UNICEF officials also point out that in the countries hardest hit by this disaster, where between one third and one half of the population is under 18 years of age, children could account for up to half the death toll when the final figures are tallied. And while there's little risk of another deadly wave, the danger is far from over for these families, so many already torn apart by tragedy.

CHRISTOPH GORDER, AMERICARES: The larger task at hand will be keeping the survivors alive, the millions of people who were displaced and vulnerable in these unsanitary conditions.

COOPER: The heat, exposed corpses, lack of food and clean water could lead to epidemics of cholera and other diseases. And that could double the number of child victims. The future swept away in a monumental disaster that may change the face of a continent for generations to come.

Anderson Cooper, CNN, New York.


RIMINTON: Amid so much heartbreak, there have been stories that have inspired hope.

In Malaysia, a baby girl only 20 days old survived the tsunamis thanks to a mattress. The child was asleep at her father's restaurant at Panang when the water rushed in. Talassi's (ph) mother fought her way through the debris and found her baby resting on the mattress in about a meter and a half of water.

You might remember the story of the young Swedish boy who was found all on his own this week in Phuket in southern Thailand. No one knew who he was. He wasn't even able to give his name. Bewildered, the hospital did what it thought was best -- it posted the boy's picture on the Internet. Overseas, the boy's uncle recognized his nephew. He flew to Phuket and was able to reunite the child with his father. The boy's name was Hannes.

Anderson Cooper followed this extraordinary story in Phuket.


COOPER (voice-over): They called him the miracle boy. And today, there was one more miracle waiting for little Hannes Bergstroem -- 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'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. Hannes' mother is still missing.

And in another Thai hospital room, another miracle. Four-year- old Vathanyu Pha-Opas saw his father for the first time since the tsunami. Vathanyu 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.

SUTHPONG PHA-OPAS, FATHER OF VATHANYU (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): I was frightened. I did not think I would survive. The rescue team found my son in the mangrove, 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.


RIMINTON: And that's it for this special look back at this extraordinary, appalling, unbelievably grim week that has been suffered across South Asia. So many lives shattered, so much to rebuild here.

CNN will be watching. We hope you'll be watching, too.

I'm Hugh Riminton in Sri Lanka.

Thanks for joining us.


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