bloody hell! the news is getting worse

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    ndonesia said today it would host an international tsunami summit on January 6, aimed at garnering more emergency aid for the disaster-hit Indian Ocean region and to discuss future reconstruction needs.

    Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda said heads of state or their special representatives from the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations, as well as China, Japan, South Korea, India, Sri Lanka, Australia, New Zealand and the United States, would be invited.

    Also invited would be representatives from the United Nations, the World Bank, the World Health Organisation, Asian Development Bank and European Union.

    The move came as Asia's tsunami death toll soared above 125,000, with persistent rumours of new giant waves sending many fleeing inland in panic.

    Millions sought food and water as an international aid started to trickle in.

    Aid agencies warned that the region's smashed infrastructure might not be able to stave off the looming threat of disease.

    Workers in south India sprayed streets to ward off cholera.

    "The worst is yet to come, I am afraid, because of the breakdown of sanitation facilities," said Dr Robert Edelman, a professor of medicine at the University of Maryland in the United States.

    Hungry crowds in Indonesia besieged aid workers delivering food.

    Some drivers dared not stop. Aircraft dropped supplies to nearly obliterated towns in hard-hit Aceh and other parts of Sumatra.

    The tragedy that has touched all corners of the globe is ushering in a sombre New Year's Eve.

    Some 5000 foreign tourists, mostly Europeans at popular Indian Ocean resorts, are missing and hopes are dimming they will be found alive.

    Ten Australians are confirmed dead and there are fears for another 41.

    A Red Cross web site in Geneva to aid anxious relatives locate survivors partially crashed after being overwhelmed by 650,000 hits in the first 24 hours.

    Dozens of aftershocks have unnerved the traumatised survivors after the 9.0 magnitude earthquake, the strongest in 40 years, sent an unprecedented tsunami rolling from Indonesia to Africa.

    After one such aftershock yesterday, the Indian government issued a tsunami alert. It was later withdrawn but not before residents fled in panic and aid distribution was halted in towns in Tamil Nadu.

    "Waves are coming, waves are coming," some shouted.

    This time, however, the waves did not come.

    "I don't know how often this (tsunami) will happen but it has suddenly made our lives uncertain," said Apparachi Ashokan, a fisherman at Devanampatti village near Cuddalore town, 170km south of Madras.

    Aftershocks last night in Indonesia's Aceh sent residents fleeing their homes for the second night in a row.

    The death toll had shot up more than 50 per cent in a day with still no clear picture of conditions in some remote villages.

    Indonesia's Health Ministry said just under 80,000 people had died in the northern Aceh province that was close to the undersea quake - some 28,000 more than previously announced.

    People across the world opened their hearts and wallets to give millions of dollars to victims, jamming phone lines and web sites and outpacing their own governments in their generosity.

    David Nabarro, head of a World Health Organisation crisis team, said as many as 5 million people were now unable to obtain the minimum they needed to live.

    But getting aid to the survivors is the big problem, with many roads washed out, petrol stations not operating and poor coordination among the military, aid groups and governments.

    "Some cars come by and throw food like that," said Usman, 43, in Banda Aceh. "The fastest get the food, the strong one wins. The elderly and the injured don't get anything. We feel like dogs."

    The World Bank offered $US250 million ($A321 million) in relief, bringing total international aid to nearly $US500 million ($A642.1 million).

    Many villages and resorts from Thailand to Indonesia are now mud-covered rubble, blanketed with the stench of corpses.

    The cataclysm is stretching the world's ability to respond, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said.

    While the initial outpouring of donations has been generous, "this is an unprecedented global catastrophe and it requires an unprecedented global response," he told a news conference.

    A tragedy of biblical proportions is bringing together the mostly poor countries along the Indian Ocean rim and their rich counterparts in the west.

    The Paris Club group of creditors is to examine a debt moratorium for disaster-struck countries, a source close to the Club said.

    US President George W Bush, criticised for his slow reaction to the disaster, said he would send a delegation led by Secretary of State Colin Powell to the region on Sunday to assess the need for US assistance.

    Analysts estimated damages from the disaster at about $US14 billion ($A18 billion), but that does not include potential losses of business and productivity. Some are cutting economic growth estimates for the hardest-hit countries.

    - Reuters

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