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VOICE OF AMERICA
SLUG: 2-321506 Australia / Indonesia / Aid
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=1/4/05

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

TITLE=AUSTRALIA INDONESIA AID (L-O)

NUMBER=2-321506

BYLINE=PHIL MERCER

DATELINE=SYDNEY

CONTENT=

VOICED AT:

HEADLINE: Australia Expected to Boost Tsunami Relief to Indonesia

INTRO: Australia may increase its aid to Asia's tsunami victims nearly nine-fold, to almost 400 million dollars. Prime Minister John Howard will discuss the aid package at the regional tsunami relief summit in Jakarta this week. From Sydney, Phil Mercer reports on the effort to rebuild thousands of devastated communities.

TEXT: Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer says Canberra is prepared to offer "considerably more" aid to tsunami-hit regions.

The Australian government is concentrating its efforts in Aceh on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, where most of the victims of the

Indian Ocean disaster perished.

In Jakarta later this week, Australian officials are expected to outline details of a massive aid package. Australian newspapers on Tuesday reported the total package may be worth up to 400 million dollars, although the government has not confirmed that figure. Already, Canberra has pledged 46 million dollars.

The new aid is expected to include measures for immediate relief, as well as long-term financial and technical help to rebuild Aceh's battered towns.

Foreign Minister Downer has said international support will be needed for years to come in the countries hit by the tsunami and earthquake on December 26th.

Australian aid workers are already in action in Aceh and four Australian military helicopters were arriving in Indonesia on Tuesday to ferry supplies and medical teams to isolated communities.

In Thailand, Australian experts are helping to identify thousands of bodies on the island of Phuket. Mr. Downer, who was touring the disaster zone on Tuesday, says they face a gruesome task.

/// ACT DOWNER ///

"There's a grisly, difficult and unattractive and sad job to be done here at the moment."

/// END ACT ///

Australian citizens and companies continue to donate to disaster-relief charities - so far 65 million dollars has been raised. In the country's biggest city, Sydney, many residents expect much more will follow.

/// ACT VOX POP MAN ///

"I think it probably parallels a lot of previous tragedies where Australia tends to come to the fore particularly in this part of the world."

/// END ACT ///

/// OPT ///

/// ACT VOX POP WOMAN ///

"I was just speaking to a colleague from the office today and we're putting together a special, sort of, work effort in order to get people in the office to donate."

/// END ACT ///

/// END OPT ///

At least 13 Australians are known to have died in tsunami areas. The government warns the figure is likely to rise - possibly into the hundreds.

/// REST OPT ///

Foreign Minister Downer on Thursday heads to a disaster-relief summit in Indonesia.

Australia has also sent medical teams to the Maldives and Sri Lanka. (SIGNED)

HK/NEB/PM/KPD



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