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SLUG: 2-321504 Tsunami Wrap









HEADLINE: US Steps Up Response to Asian Disaster

INTRO: Across south Asia, the massive effort to get humanitarian aid to the millions of people affected by last week's killer tsunami is having mixed success. In some cases, the aid is already more than enough, while in other countries, relief workers as well as survivors say the devastation in some regions is complicating efforts to reach those in dire need. Correspondent Nick Simeone has the latest.

TEXT: For Thailand, it's no longer aid that's needed, but faster ways of distributing it.


"We don't need any financial assistance. We need technical assistance."

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With donors from around the world now having pledged more than two billion dollars in aid, Thailand's Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra instead wants more help with the massive job of recovering the dead.

/// 2nd SHINAWATRA ACT ///

"We still need to search for more corpses which are still missing."

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Indonesia, by far, has been hardest hit, with nearly 100-thousand people believed to have perished in the earthquake and tsunami. Michael Elmquist is the U.N. relief coordinator there.


"The aid that is coming in is sufficient but the difficulty is to reach all the people because many of them are living in very remote places and distributing aid in remote places where the seashore may have been seriously damaged by the tsunami is going to be a logistical nightmare."

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Correspondents in Indonesia's hardest hit area, the town of Banda Aceh on the Sumatran coast, speak of entire regions where remote villagers -- eight days after the earthquake and the wall of water struck -- still have not received any aid. Nigel Pont of the aid group Mercy Corps is there.

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"As we spend more and more time with the families and the victims of this disaster, the scale of the catastrophe at the real personal level is just beginning to become clear."

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Much of the devastated area remains off limits to vehicles because of the incredible amount of damage and debris, leaving it up to cargo planes and helicopters to drop aid from the air. Thousands of American marines and sailors on several warships are either in the region or on the way there.

The situation is similar in Sri Lanka where rescue efforts overland are hindered because of the vast destruction along much of the island's coast. Jeffrey Lunstead is the U.S. ambassador there.


"The country, the road along the coast from Colombo south all the way around the tip of the island, all the way up to Trincomalee is washed away in many places, a number of bridges are destroyed. Those all have to be rebuilt so things can move and people can get back to their livelihood."

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With flags flying at half-mast in Washington in memory of the victims, President Bush Monday enlisted his father, the former President Bush as well as former president Bill Clinton to lead a nationwide drive to raise contributions to private charities involved in the relief effort.

/// BUSH ACT ///

"I ask every American to contribute, as they are able to do so."

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Secretary of State Colin Powell arrived in Bangkok Monday night along with the president's brother, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, to get a first hand assessment of the situation, and to demonstrate the American commitment to the region's recovery.

President Bush had faced criticism for not speaking out immediately after the December 26th disaster and for the initial U.S. aid contribution of just 35 million dollars. That amount has since been increased to 350 million and Congress is expected to approve more in the days ahead. (SIGNED)


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