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Friday, December 31, 2004

CLAIM: 400,000 DEAD

Claim: 400,000 DEAD


Indonesia Needs Help, Death Toll Expected To Exceed 400,000
Thu Dec 30 2004 12:52:01 ET

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 30 (Bernama) -- The death toll in Acheh, the
region worst hit by last Sunday´s tsunami, may exceed 400,000 as
many affected areas could still not be reached for search and rescue
operations, Indonesia´s Ambassador to Malaysia Drs H. Rusdihardjo
said Thursday.

He said the estimate was based on air surveillance by Indonesian
authorities who found no signs of life in places like Meulaboh,
Pulau Simeulue and Tapak Tuan while several islands off the west
coast of Sumatera had "disappeared".

He said the latest death toll of more than 40,000 in Acheh and
northern Sumatera did not take into account the figures from the
other areas, especially in the west of the region.

"Aerial surveillance found the town of Meulaboh completely destroyed
with only one buiding standing. The building, which belonged to the
military, happens to be on a hill," he told reporters after
receiving RM1 million in aid for Indonesia´s Tsunami Disaster Relief
Fund here Thursday.

Rusdihardjo said there were about 150,000 residents in Meulaboh,
which was located 150km from the epicentre of the earthquake while
Pulau Simeuleu had a population of 76,000.

Ambassador Rusdihardjo said a combination of earthquake and tsunami
had left 80 to 100 per cent of infrastructure in Acheh province,
such as hospitals, health centres, transport and communication
networks and homes, destroyed.

"Looking at the scale of destruction, it´s difficult to say when the
search and rescue operations can be mounted in all affected areas,"
he said.

He said rescue efforts were hampered by transportation difficulties
and lack of fuel.

Rusdihardjo said that at this time international help, especially in
the form of medicines, clean water, food and clothing, were
desperately needed by Indonesia to aid survivors in Acheh.

"Now we are worried about the outbreak of diseases such as cholera,
the work of disposing corpses and the absence of clean water
following the contamination of water sources," he said.

It would take years before the situation returned to normal, he
said, adding that the Indonesian government was not able to estimate
losses caused by the tragedy as yet.

He expressed his gratitude to Malaysia´s help although the country
itself was hit with 66 lives lost so far and property to the tune of
millions of ringgit destroyed.

"We are deeply touched," he said.

Rusdihardjo said Indonesia was also seeking Malaysia´s cooperation
to mount search and rescue operations from its shores because of the
close proximity of the two countries.




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