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Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Earthquake/Tsunami Update

The South-East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami blog has links to aid agencies and information on the recovery work occurring in the region.

The death toll has surged past 50,000 lives. The tragedy could grow worse as there is a lack of uncontaminated drinking water, and the risk of disease from so many decomposing bodies.

Many of the bodies were already decomposing in the heat, underlining the growing health risk.

"Rescuers are holding their breath and using their bare hands, axes, or shovels to dig through piles of wrecked buildings and debris at Khao Lak," said a senior provincial official, Chailert Piyorattanachote.

"We don't have enough coffins and those that we have are too small for the bloated bodies of foreigners."


For the most immediate needs, hundreds of relief planes packed with emergency goods were due to arrive in the region from about two dozen countries within the next 48 hours.

But authorities waited in trepidation for the outbreak of diseases caused by polluted drinking water and the sheer scale of thousands of putrefying bodies, lying in mud or being washed onto beaches.

The U.N.'s Egeland said there could be epidemics of intestinal and lung infections unless health systems in the stricken countries got help.

A top World Health Organization expert, David Nabarro said there was "certainly a chance that we could have as many dying from communicable diseases as from the tsunami."

In Aceh, Lieutenant-Colonel Budi Santoso said: "Many bodies are still lying on the streets. There just aren't enough body bags."

"I've never buried so many in a single day in my life," said Shekhar, an Indian gravedigger.

Eleven Americans are listed among the dead with hundreds more listed as missing.

On a brighter note, a Swedish child was reunited with his uncle after the uncle saw a picture of the boy posted on a web site.

A blond two-year-old Swedish boy, Hannes Bergstroem, found sitting alone on a road in Thailand was reunited with his uncle, who saw the boy's picture on a Web site.

"This is a miracle, the biggest thing that could happen," said the uncle, who identified himself as Jim, after flying from his home country to Thailand to reach Hannes at the hospital were the boy was being treated. The boy's mother and grandmother were missing, while his father and grandfather were reportedly at another hospital.

The power of the Internet at work!

UPDATE: From the SEA-EAT blog: satellite images are showing the changes the tsunami caused to the Indian coastline and outlying islands. More on the regional changes in geography and on tsumanis in general. (From The Moderate Voice)

UPDATE II: The New York Times has an article on the role blogs have had both in reporting about this catastrophe and in promoting disaster relief efforts. (From Instapundit)

UPDATE III: The death toll has climbed to over 59,000.