tsunami wrapup 1-copter crash, aftershock hinder r

  1. 5,549 Posts.
    Achmad Sukarsono and Dan Eaton

    BANDA ACEH, Indonesia, Jan 10 (Reuters) - A powerful
    aftershock and a U.S. helicopter crash on Monday rattled massive
    relief operations for victims of the tsunami and earthquake in
    Indonesia's Aceh province but not for long.

    A U.S. military Seahawk crashed near the crowded airport at
    the provincial capital Banda Aceh, the hub of the huge effort to
    help millions of people whose lives were crippled by the Dec. 26
    tsunami and earthquake.

    Officials said all on board the helicopter were taken to
    hospital but no one had died. The U.S. military briefly halted
    all helicopter flights taking aid to the interior, but soon
    resumed the operations.

    Earlier in the morning, panic-stricken people in the
    devastated city fled from their homes and shelters after a 6.2
    magnitude aftershock hit at 5 a.m. (2200 GMT Sunday), officials
    and residents said.

    "There has been no report of casualties and we're still
    gathering more data," said Sutiono, an official at Indonesia's
    meteorological bureau.

    December's 9-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami
    killed at least 156,000 people along the Indian Ocean, with Aceh
    province accounting for almost all of Indonesia's 104,000 deaths.
    It was the most widespread natural disaster in living memory.

    The global response to the disaster has been unprecedented --
    governments and agencies have pledged more than $5 billion in aid
    and companies and individuals have promised $1.5 billion.
    Rich countries said on Friday they would suspend tsunami-hit
    nations' debt repayments to help free resources for rebuilding.

    Tens of thousands of people are still missing, many of them
    in Aceh, with hopes fading of finding many of them alive. Much of
    the huge relief effort has been focused on getting food, drinking
    water and shelter to victims in Aceh, where about 5 million
    people have been displaced from their homes.

    Tonnes of food, medicine, tents and drinking water are being
    flown to Banda Aceh in a never-ending stream of aircraft along
    with doctors, nurses and relief workers.

    The Seahawk that plunged on Monday into a rice paddy near the
    airport was probably coming in to pick up supplies to ferry to
    the interior of the province, where access by road has been cut


    Aceh, an oil and gas-rich region on the northern tip of
    Sumatra island, has been battered by a three decade-long

    Indonesia's military beefed up security in the area on Sunday
    and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono sought to reassure relief
    workers after a burst of gunfire outside a deputy police chief's
    house and near the main U.N. aid office in Banda Aceh.

    There was confusion over who was behind the shooting, with
    some officials blaming separatist rebels, while others said a
    disturbed government soldier fired the shots. No one was hurt.

    "The security operation conducted by Indonesia's military
    and police will protect, secure the humanitarian efforts," Yudhoyono told reporters to allay any concern among hundreds of
    Western aid workers pouring in.

    Chief social welfare minister Alwi Shihab said the military
    had ordered a high alert because of what he called possible
    infiltration by people wary of the foreigners' presence.

    There have been reports of militant Islamic groups moving
    into Aceh as they believed Western aid groups might use the
    disaster to push a Christian agenda.

    Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation and Aceh
    is considered the most strictly Islamic region in the vast

    "You have to proceed with due caution. This has been and is
    a zone of conflict," Aly-Kahn Rajami, programme manager of CARE
    International, said after the shooting.


    The tsunami killed about 30,000 people in Sri Lanka, 15,000
    in India, more than 5,000 in Thailand and others in the Maldives,
    Myanmar, Bangladesh and several East African nations.

    In Sri Lanka, President Chandrika Kumaratunga told BBC
    television that with reconstruction starting on Jan. 15, "we can
    certainly welcome tourists in three months, maximum four".

    In another boost to relief efforts, French Finance Minister
    Herve Gaymard said on Sunday the Paris Club of creditor nations
    was ready to agree to a debt moratorium for the affected
    countries at a meeting in the French capital on Wednesday.

    U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, fresh from touring
    several countries struck by the tsunami, said the United States
    should plan to provide long-term aid as efforts begin to shift
    from saving lives to rebuilding communities.

    He said he would recommend to President George W. Bush "that
    we stay engaged, that this is a long-term prospect, that we use
    our money not just for immediate humanitarian relief but for
    economic assistance for infrastructure development."

    In Sri Lanka, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the
    government should use the world's support to heal the country's
    ethnic divisions and end a conflict involving Tamil rebels.

    The government stopped him visiting tsunami-hit areas in the
    rebel-held north and east on Saturday.

    "The world wants to help Sri Lanka," Annan said. "I hope Sri
    Lanka would use the support and the goodwill, not only to
    recover from this tragedy but as an opportunity to unite in the
    work for peace."
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