UN’s fear for tsunami survivors

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The United Nations warned on Wednesday Asia’s tsunami death toll could double to about 300,000 unless survivors received clean water and other basic services by the end of the week to prevent disease.

Secretary of State Colin Powell, in Indonesia for an emergency international aid summit on Thursday, flew over the worst scenes of devastation and said it was more horrifying than wars he had witnessed during decades as a soldier.

Australia and Germany pledged more than $1 billion in aid, raising the U.N.’s global tally to nearly $3.7 billion, and a debt relief initiative by rich nations gathered momentum.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said it had sent emergency treatment to the region for diarrheal diseases such as cholera and dysentery but while the aid was reaching many locations, access to safe drinking water remained inadequate.

“If basic needs … are not urgently restored to all populations by the end of this week, WHO fears that outbreaks of infectious disease could result in a similar number of fatalities as occurred due to the direct impact of the tsunami,” the U.N. agency said in a statement on the Internet.

After getting a bird’s-eye view of the battered northwest coastline of Indonesia’s Sumatra island, Powell promised Washington would send more helicopters, food and clean water to isolated survivors of the tsunami.

POWELL “HORROR”

“I have been in war and I have been through a number of hurricanes, tornadoes and other relief operations, but I have never seen anything like this,” said America’s former top soldier.

Powell, 67, served two combat tours in Vietnam during a 35-year military career that ended with his service as the country’s military chief.

“I cannot begin to imagine the horror that went through families and all of the people who heard this noise coming and then had their lives snuffed out by this wave,” he said.

About two-thirds of the U.N. estimated 150,000 dead from the tsunami were killed in Aceh province on Sumatra.

Source: Dean Yates and Achmad Sukarsono Reuters