Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Wednesday tsunami update 

The death toll: In this table.

The big picture: "The United Nations says
'extraordinary progress' is being made. The UN says the total amount of aid pledged had risen to between $US2 billion and $US3 billion ($A2.55 to $A3.99 billion)."

This is a handy list of
who's giving what. As the report notes, the aid is coming even "from the world's poorest: Russian town of Beslan - scene of a bloody school siege last year - pledged 1m roubles ($36,000) from the fund set up after the mass hostage-taking; Mozambique - one of the world's poorest nations - has donated $100,000; [and] Nepal and East Timor have also pledged donations."

Down Under:

"Australia is prepared to spend whatever it takes to help rebuild countries ravaged by the tsunami, Prime Minister John Howard will tell a relief summit in Jakarta today."
Most of Australia's effort is directed at Indonesia, which in addition to being the world's largest Muslim country (and the world's largest Muslim democracy), is our nearest neighbor, with a see-saw history of relations. It makes a moral sense, it makes a strategic sense, and it's also an investment in the stability of Indonesia. Hence:

"Australia's response to Indonesia's tsunami tragedy has heralded a new era of close relations between the two countries, the Indonesian ambassador to Australia said yesterday, and would be remembered for 'years to come'. The praise came as the [Sydney Morning] Herald learned that the Prime Minister, John Howard, was the first foreign leader Indonesia's President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, contacted after the disaster."
It's not just Australia:

"Rear Admiral Doug Crowder of the US Navy was having trouble making out the words of his Indonesian counterpart, Major-General Bambang Dharmono, over the roar of the two US Seahawk helicopters parked behind them on the military airstrip.

"The silvery haired admiral moved closer, his hands still on his hips but his face now within 30 centimetres of the camouflage-clad Indonesian. They were comparing notes on the relief airlifted into Aceh for victims of the tsunami. Admiral Crowder could still not hear.

"So he bowed his head slightly, putting his ear up to General Dharmono's mouth. Then he placed his left hand on the Indonesian's shoulder.

"The image would have been unthinkable two weeks ago."
As the report notes, "military officers on both sides acknowledged they could not have imagined such close cooperation, especially in such a politically sensitive province [Aceh]. Admiral Crowder said later that he expected the joint efforts would improve the prospects for resuming full military ties between the countries."


"The Jakarta summit will be addressed by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who will deliver a 'message of hope' and make a new appeal for relief funds."
It seems, though, that the real "message of hope" is already being delivered (and has been so for quite some time) by the new coalition of the willing, led by the United States - in the words of a Dutch diplomat quoted by the Diplomad blog, which is a must read on the situation in South Asia:

"The US military has arrived and is clearly establishing its presence everywhere in Banda Aceh. They completely have taken over the military hospital, which was a mess until yesterday but is now completely up and running. They brought big stocks of medicines, materials for the operation room, teams of doctors, water and food. Most of the patients who were lying in the hospital untreated for a week have undergone medical treatment by the US teams by this afternoon. US military have unloaded lots of heavy vehicles and organize the logistics with Indonesian military near the airport. A big camp is being set up at a major square in the town. Huge generators are ready to provide electricity. US helicopters fly to places which haven't been reached for the whole week and drop food. The impression it makes on the people is also highly positive; finally something happens in the city of Banda Aceh and finally it seems some people are in control and are doing something. No talking but action. European countries are until now invisible on the ground. IOM staff (note: this is a USAID-funded organization) is very busy briefing the incoming Americans and Australians about the situation."
Meanwhile, the United States will double to 90 the number of helicopters currently operating in the region. Since as the UN emergency relief coordinator Jan Egeland said, "those helicopters are worth their weight in gold now," that's an awful lot of American gold. In fact, since every Seahawk helicopter weighs 21,700 punds, the contribution is almost 2 million punds of gold (1,953,000 to be exact).

More on the American military's aid effort here. Chester, former Marine officer, is also keeping track of American assistance at his blog. And Britain has offered to send 120 Ghurka soldiers currently stationed in Brunai to help with the aid effort in Indonesia.

In response,
this from the UN:
"The post below reports on the impending arrival of Ms. Margareeta Wahlstrom 'United Nations Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator and the Secretary-General's Special Coordinator for Humanitarian Assistance in Tsunami-affected countries.'

"She has spoken! At a large meeting this afternoon, she and the local UN rep, Mr. Bo 'Please Wear Blue' Asplund have announced the arrival of yet another 'United Nations Joint Assessment Team.' But this one is very, very ultra- special. According to the UNocrats, it's not 'just another assessment team.' Oh, no, banish that thought! You see, 'This assessment team will coordinate all the other assessment teams.' In addition, the UN will set up a 'Civil-Military Coordination Office to coordinate [that word! that word!] all military assistance because the military do not have experience in disaster relief (!)'"
The Assessment Team will probably finish its work by the time the emergency is over - but it will be a mighty fine assessment, indeed. Very much in line with the proud UN tradition of solving the problem of genocide by the time no one is left standing (Bosnia? Rwanda? Kosovo? Darfur, anyone?).

In other national contributions: "
Germany reportedly is prepared to increase its monetary aid to tsunami victims to $664 million (500 million euros) which could set a record" and Saudi Arabia triples its aid package to $30 million.

In all shapes and sizes: Charles Simmins is
tracking private American contributions (link in PDF).

A busker in Australia's mountain resort of Thredbo has raised $9,000 by playing his cello.

George W Bush is raising money - indirectly: "Outland Books, a New York publishing company, said today that it would donate $3 from each internet sale of its popular daily calendar, Presidential (Mis)Speak: The Very Curious Language of George W Bush, to the UN aid agency Unicef." I'm sure his contribution will be misunderestimated again.

Formula One champion
Michael Schumacher is kicking in $10 million.

In Burnaby, British Columbia, a Buddhist abbot is
selling the local temple, worth C$500,000, to donate the money to the aid effort.

3,000 health care workers around Australia have offered their assistance.

And here's a story on the contribution of
Internet businesses.

But this might be
too much: "British pop star Boy George is adding his voice to the humanitarian efforts. He'll collaborate with Olivia Newton-John and Robin and Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees on a new charity single. The ballad, titled 'Grief Never Grows Old,' will hit sores later this month."

Business as usual: In

"The Indonesian military is continuing to wage war with separatist rebels in the hills of Aceh as world leaders put the finishing touches to a multi-billion-dollar aid and investment package for the devastated province...

"The rebels claimed yesterday that the Indonesian military has moved more troops into rebel-held territory under the guise of relief operations since the tsunami struck 10 days ago. They say squads of soldiers are preventing hill villagers going to help their relatives on the coast."
What's next? The Thais are angry:

"Thailand has fired its chief meteorologist and opened an investigation into why his department failed to issue a tsunami warning last month which might have saved thousands of lives. 'When a quake measured at 8.9-9.0 on the Richter scale struck in Sumatra, it was widely known tsunami can happen,' Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said. 'But why weren't there any alerts? I really want to know the truth'."
Maybe they should employ animals, instead:

"French zoologists say many animals seem to have avoided the December 26 tsunami that swept the coastline of the Indian Ocean thanks to acoustic senses that are far more advanced than those of humans.

"Aerial pictures of Sri Lanka's Yala National Park, broadcast on international TV news channels, show it was penetrated by surging floodwater.

"But there were no signs of any dead elephants, leopards, deer, jackals and crocodiles, the species that have given the conservation reserve worldwide fame.

"The footage adds to historic anecdotes about seismic waves, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, in which birds take flight, dogs howl and herd animals stampede to safety before catastrophe strikes."
It seems though that most Indian Ocean countries are now keen to have a tsunami warning system. Better late than never.


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