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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Tsunami Relief Efforts Underway

Aired January 1, 2005 - 10:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


HUGH RIMINGTON, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to this special CNN report. We're coming to you live from Beruwala, Sri Lanka -- nearly said South Africa. It is Sri Lanka. We are on the coast, on the beach in an area that was hard hit by this tsunami. Over this next hour, we will be looking at the latest developments right across the region that's been affected by this tsunami disaster. We have some extraordinary vision to show you, some extraordinary developments today as well.
We will be interviewing the United Nations top humanitarian aid official to talk about how the aid is getting out. We'll also talk to the world's top health official to see how the extraordinary health issues, the extraordinarily complicated health issues arising out of this tsunami disaster are being handled and what the prospects are for heading off the epidemic that so many people fear.

We will also be going shortly to Indonesia for some extraordinary, unforgettable scenes as the first U.S. military aid is flown in to some of the hardest-hit areas. CNN's Mike Chinoy was exclusively on that - a flight as it went on, the only reporter on that flight. What you see there will be unforgettable. We'll bring you that shortly in this hour program.

Beruwala is a fishing and tourism town on the southwestern coast of Sri Lanka. It has not been hit as hard as some areas across the south, the southeast, the east and the northeast of this country, but it has been hit severely just the same. This is a hotel or what used to be a hotel that I'm coming to you from. We have fishing vessels that have in fact, been washed right up into the hotel. A week ago there were 177 guests from all over the world staying here, enjoying their Christmas break. There were also, just as importantly, nearly 200 staff.

Well, the guests have all gone. The 200 staff obviously have very little in their future at the moment. In many cases, their guest, their staff quarters were wiped out by the waves. They have no jobs, few prospects. It is just one aspect of this appalling story. Earlier today a few hours ago, I caught up with the manager of this hotel, Kenneth Javasinghe. He told us how the waves came in and what happened when the third and largest of the waves struck.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KENNETH JAVASINGHE, HOTEL MANAGER: Well, the first time the water came, and it was a perfect day, bright and sunny and then the water came inside and no one knew what was going on. And the next thing we knew was the water went back and the whole thing was dry. The water area this side of the reef was completely empty and there were a few puddles and the fish were jumping up. And (UNINTELLIGIBLE) beyond the reef and the other one on the left.

RIMINGTON: So those distant rocks.

JAVASINGHE: Yeah, that was more than 30 feet of the rock we saw. And with the whole (UNINTELLIGIBLE) was empty, dry.

RIMINGTON: It was dry all the way...

JAVASINGHE: Right and I believe it was dry further right, more than 400 meters.

RIMINGTON: So what happened when the third big wave came through?

JAVASINGHE: Third big wave it destroyed everything. We had a full restaurant there. It just swept that away and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) rooms there, and it hit the rooms and then continued destroying everything in sight and went towards the village.

RIMINGTON: And what about all this here?

JAVASINGHE: All this is where people live.

RIMINGTON: Who lives in these places?

JAVASINGHE: Those are our staff quarters, they live there and that one, as well.

RIMINGTON: So your workers at the moment. Not only do they not really have a job but many don't have anywhere to live?

JAVASINGHE: That's right. Most of them are from the area, but some of them, even their houses in the area has been destroyed. So not that they don't have a job, they don't have a place to stay as well.

RIMINGTON: Is there any social welfare system in Sri Lanka that would help people out of work?

JAVASINGHE: Not of this magnitude. I think the numbers we are talking is too large (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to do it. Plus I think more than what happened on that day, it's becoming more and more complicated now, the problems (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

RIMINGTON: Why is that?

JAVASINGHE: Like people are homeless, jobless, they can't -- people who can afford to buy some food, sometimes they don't have access to food and especially fresh water.

RIMINGTON: The shops have gone.

JAVASINGHE: The shops have gone, then there's no fresh water in this area. All contaminated. And even the cleaning operation hasn't started, yet.

RIMINGTON: So tourism had been good? JAVASINGHE: Very good. For the last four or five months it has been very good. We have been (UNINTELLIGIBLE) 90 percent continuously and even when this wave came and hit us, we were doing a full house operation with 270 guests in house.

RIMINGTON: ... full house of water.

JAVASINGHE: ... full house of water.

RIMINGTON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) this entire --

JAVASINGHE: Water came right up to the ceiling, as you can see there. And even the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) was full of water. And the water just continued going forward.

RIMINGTON: Did you see it coming in?

JAVASINGHE: Yes, I did.

RIMINGTON: What did it look like?

JAVASINGHE: It was very scary and it was water with a lot of sand and mud. It just rose up and while I was standing there, the entire light got cut off.

RIMINGTON: And in terms of personal stuff, all the stuff that makes live precious, photographs and so on.

JAVASINGHE: Yes, we lost everything. I even lost my identity card and driving license. My old one, I just found it.

RIMINGTON: And now you run a hotel which is not even here any more.

JAVASINGHE: That's right.

RIMINGTON: There's a lot gone, isn't there?

JAVASINGHE: In a couple of minutes.

RIMINGTON: Yeah.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RIMINGTON: There's a man with a lot on his mind as the future comes toward him and those other members of his staff. This is a story that is repeated obviously across so many millions of households still at this moment as we go into this New Year. Now within hours of the waves hitting Sri Lanka, the government of India declared that it was going to do everything that it could to help. It had war ships and helicopters within hours steaming to Sri Lanka and gave some of the earliest aid along the coastline.

Since then, even though India has enormous difficulties of its own with its southeastern coastline, which was also savaged by this tsunami, India has stepped up its aid to Sri Lanka. There are now 11 war ships off the Sri Lankan coast delivering aid, particularly medical supplies. CNN's Satinder Bindra reports on what the Indians are up to in this exclusive report from the coast of Galle.

SATINDER BINDRA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the largest relief operation launched by the Indian navy outside its waters. In all the Indian Navy has deployed 11 ships in the tsunami-struck region. Seven of these ships are now along the coast of Sri Lanka and three of these ships are deployed along the coastal city of Galle here in southern Sri Lanka.

I'm here on one of the ships and just in front of me there's two other Indian naval ships. One of these ships is a floating hospital. It can have about 45 people in there at one time. These people can be treated all at one time. The other ship is carrying a lot of relief and medical supplies. India, along with other nations, has also donated money. Indian says it will give Sri Lanka $25 million and Indian officials here say this money and this relief effort is the symbol of the deep ties that exist between these countries.

In the next coming days, the Indian naval officers here have their task cut out for them. They have to clear out Galle's harbor. Currently, there's a lot of debris in there. There's sunken fishing boats and trawlers. The Indians are also watching the coastal area very closely. They fear that as things exist right now, there may be an outbreak of an epidemic. On board the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) just off the coast of Galle. I'm Satinder Bindra for CNN.

RIMINGTON: Now, the Indian army is also involved in cleaning up villages in India, particularly in southeastern Indian, the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) province is the one that has been hardest hit. There have been medical teams also going in. They've been cleaning up the Indian Army, this might seem unglamorous work. It hardly seems as if it should be the top priority but that would be if you hadn't seen the immense amount of debris, everything from multistory buildings scattered all over the place to hundreds of millions of tons of sand and mud that has come up from the sea bed and been distributed over wide areas along the coastline. It might seem unglamorous, but these bulldozers and the work they do is critical to getting communications back open and getting medical care into these areas, getting aid in all forms in there and just as many people get their lives back to normal.

They have also had nursing teams and medical teams in to distributing antibiotics and vaccines, particular focus on those who are most vulnerable, the elderly and the young and pregnant women. Now, India also owns or controls part of India, as I suppose is the Nikiba (ph) Islands. They have not it must be said been in the forefront of most peoples' minds in the normal course a events before the tsunami disaster. They have slumbered on a peaceful life in the Indian Ocean. It was not a peaceful life anymore after last Saturday as they were hit savagely by these enormous waves. They were not so far from the epicenter.

In the course of all of this, some people have had to deal not only with their own bewilderment and grief, but the decision on whether to stay in their homes, whether to stay on the islands or whether to leave them fearing more inundations of water, the difficulty of trying to just keep food and drinking water coming to them. They've had to make that decision knowing that they will be leaving behind people who are still missing, perhaps unidentified. They don't even know their fate, an appalling decision to have to make. CNN's (UNINTELLIGIBLE) caught up with one family that was making exactly that decision.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNKNOWN CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over) (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Kahn (ph) and his wife have no answer when their 5-year-old asks where their sisters are. Their daughters were staying with Kahn's relatives the night the tsunami struck. Kahn rushed his wife and child to safety and they were evacuated to this camp on the main (UNINTELLIGIBLE) island. Now there's no news of the girls.

It's so hard to get through each day, cries their mother, I just keep thinking of them. Thousands are missing in this (UNINTELLIGIBLE) violence on the Indian Ocean, even as more and more survivors turning up at the makeshift relief camps on the main island. Kahn says he can't bear to just sit around, so he spends all his time going from one camp to another, in the desperate hope he will see his precious children, aged 3 and just 1 and seeing (ph) other relatives. And then he does. As he finds his sister at a camp, Kahn's tears are unstoppable. She tells him she heard that his daughter could be stuck with other family members in a forest on the far side of their island.

What will they have eaten, he asks? My girls must be so hungry. Tomorrow Kahn says he will go to beg relief officials to try and look for them. But he knows it will be hard. So much of this island has been devastated, roads broken and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) washed away. Even so, Kahn and his wife say they won't give up trying. They have lost every belonging in the world. But it won't mean a thing says Kahn if only his beloved daughters are found. (UNINTELLIGIBLE), CNN, Fort Blair (ph) in the Indian Ocean.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RIMINGTON: When we return, let's take a reality check on aid, how much is being pledged, is it enough? Is it getting through to the people who need it most. We will have an interview with the head of the United Nations emergency coordination movement Jan Egeland. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RIMINGTON: Welcome back. We're coming to you live from Sri Lanka. It was Indonesia that has been hardest hit by this disaster and in the last few hours, there has been an enormous effort to try to turn around what has been a scene of absolute desperation. There's obviously been an enormous death toll, but the concerns right now of those who are living, but absolutely at the edge. The United States has flown in military support. Military aid has come in. It's the quickest most efficient way to get stuff in to the worst hit areas of Indonesia. CNN's Mike Chinoy was able to hitch a lift, the only reporter to do so to go into one of the hardest hit areas of Indonesia. Mike Chinoy joins us now. Mike, it must have been an extraordinary experience.

MIKE CHINOY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, it was an absolutely incredible experience. My cameraman Neal Bennett (ph) and I wedged into the back of an SH-60 helicopter, three U.S. servicemen from the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln. We took off from Banda Aceh airport and flew about just over 100 kilometers along the western coast of Sumatra.

What's extraordinary is for kilometer after kilometer after kilometer, where there were towns and villages you just see nothing, just nothing at all. Sometimes the occasional structure intact but more often that not just the outlines of foundations of buildings, and nothing else. Then we arrived at a small town called (INAUDIBLE, had maybe 10,000 people or so. And we saw some people running on the ground, and then when we landed and the boxes of milk and nutritional drinks were off-loaded, the crowds surged toward the helicopter.

It was an extraordinary scene of desperation. We were the first people that the survivors had contact with since the quake and the tsunami. They were desperate, falling over themselves trying to get a hold of this aid. And they were just freaked out I think is a pretty accurate description. One of them came up to me very agitated and said Aceh has drowned. We are finished, and another came up, grabbed our microphone and said, thank you, thank you, thank you. We left after just a couple of minutes. There was some concern that the crowd might actually swamp the helicopter.

We were followed moments later by another American Navy helicopter. This one with a medical team and this is the beginning of a process that's going to expand. The Americans and the Australians trying to use their aviation capabilities to get to these areas where there's just no roads, no other way to reach people, find out what's happened to people, where people are still alive, assess their immediate needs for food and medicine, water and shelter and try to, at least, stabilize them, prevent further loss of life. But the destruction is so overwhelming at a certain point you are really almost at a loss for words.

RIMINGTON: Mike Chinoy, an amazing day. Let's hope that aid keeps go on going in there where it's obviously so desperately needed in sufficient volume and sufficient speed to save some of those lives that sound very much on the edge.

Certainly there's no question that aid has been coming in, has been being pledged. There is, if you like, almost an auction going on now between the nations of the world, each offering more and more as the week goes by and the realization of the scale of this disaster really sinks in. In fact internationally if there was a chance of international donors, Japan currently tops the list. It's offered $500 million, $500 million. The United States has pledged $350 million in cash aid. Britain is third on the list. China is another major donor.

We heard about India's efforts in the Sri Lankan area a little earlier on in this hour. And there are other countries that have also if they (ph) had a population been giving uncommonly generously. There have also been donations from large international organizations. The World Development Bank is making available $325 million, the World Bank, 250 million. Perhaps all of this, the response to a stinging sense that they were being criticized by the United Nation's top emergency aid official when he appeared to be suggesting that the richest countries in the world were being less generous in their aid than they might otherwise have been. CNN's Brian Todd reviews that argument and its impact.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A high level announcement with heady numbers attached.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: President Bush has decided and we announced from the Crawford White House a little while ago that the United States contribution would now go up to $350 million.

TODD: This less than five days after the U.N.'s top humanitarian official filed a salvo at the world's wealthiest nations for their level of giving during this crisis. Many observers have been critical.

JAMES ZOGBY, ARAB AMERICAN INSTITUTE: We've done it time and again. The role we play is convening other countries to give and we give what amounts to the smallest amount for a country that uses a greater percentage of the world's resources, has a greater percentage of the world's wealth and is the mightiest nation on earth.

TODD: Some economists back that up, continually pointing to the fact that America often ranks near the bottom in development assistance to other countries, compared to the total value of goods and services produced in the U.S. Figuring in that equation called gross domestic product, the U.S. ranks sixth percentage wise among countries pledging aid to tsunami victims.

For a perspective, we spoke to a top Ivy League economist, a prominent historian and former a U.S. diplomat who coordinated massive relief efforts in southeast Asia after the Vietnam war. All agree that America's new pledge and the deployment of Colin Powell and Jeb Bush to the region are important. But they also say the United States has, over the decades, moved away from the philosophy that drove one of the most famous rebuilding projects ever undertaken by a government, putting war-torn Europe back together.

LIONEL ROSENBLATT, REFUGEES INTERNATIONAL: I often feel that the Marshall Plan was still and is still our high water mark. But and that ought to be what we emulate to do in any of these emergencies. But we haven't done that in a long time.

TODD: One historian believes experiences like the massive involvement in the Vietnam era soured the United States on the concept of pouring tremendous resources into countries far outside its borders. Many observers say that spirit has to be recaptured right now in south Asia.

KEN ROBINSON, CNN MILITARY INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: In the 21st century, with this threat and the fear of having to fight the next two or three generations as they fight this war on terrorism, it makes no sense to not aggressively go after this like a Marshall Plan. But there's a short closing window that we must take advantage of. And if not, it's ours to lose.

TODD: Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RIMINGTON: Well, let's see if the aid is enough. In fact let's go to the United Nations emergency relief coordinator, Jan Egelund. Mr. Egelund, I've heard it being suggested that you felt that you were somewhat misquoted in your apparent criticisms about the generosity of the rich countries of the world, but it does seem to have had an impact.

JAN EGELUND, UN RELIEF COORDINATOR: I am overjoyed by seeing the out pouring of assistance to the tsunami victims. We have now, on the sixth day or the seventh day of the crisis. It's not even a week, yet. We have $2 billion pledged for the emergency phase and also for the recovery phase. That is more than all money pledged in all of 2004, for all other humanitarian emergencies that the U.N. is coordinating. So in the tsunami aftermath, the generosity of the world has been just enormous.

Our biggest problem is to now actually to receive, coordinate and distribute the relief as effectively as possible.

RIMINGTON: Before we get to the actual distribution of it, given the scale of this, there's no doubt it's an unprecedented level of generosity from the various donor countries, but is it in fact going to be enough, even those figures? Are they going to be enough?

EGELUND: I think the figures will be enough for the immediate emergency phase. With the money now coming in, we will be able to feed and to clothe and to provide emergency shelter and emergency medical services to most, if not the clear majority of those affected, for the first few months.

However, much more is needed for the recovery of the societies and rebuilding their infrastructure, their health care, their water and sanitation system, and so on. That is a very long effort and that we are starting to plan already now.

RIMINGTON: So what is your priority, your immediate priority in this distribution of aid and relief?

EGELUND: Well, what we've been working with around the clock since last Sunday is to put up not only the biggest relief operation ever, but the best coordinated relief operation ever. I spoke last night just around midnight New York time with a number of governments where we asked for helicopter carriers and ships with helicopters that can be outside of the coasts of Indonesia, and Sri Lanka and of the Maldives, fixed wing aircrafts, air traffic control units. We need five of those. We need a couple of hundred more trucks immediately. We need boats, landing crafts. We need cargo aircrafts of the bigger type. We need a number of new base camps, fully equipped for relief workers which are coming in in great numbers. We need fuel storage and handling units. We need water treatment units. We need generators. We have a big wish list which is now concentrating on logistics, and getting the whole operation to run because we have phenomenal bottlenecks, especially in northern Sumatra and in Aceh.

RIMINGTON: OK, Jan Egelund, the head of the United Nations emergency relief coordination. That's good news. It's heavy machinery. Let's hope it gets in there quickly. I'm sure you'd back that up more than anyone in the world. Thanks for joining us.

EGELUND: Thank you.

RIMINGTON: Now some people are not leaving it to the governments to get aid out to the people. Some people are doing it themselves. When we come back from this break, CNN's Atika Schubert talks to a couple who are not merely organizing air drops on their own for those most in need. They're actually flying them in. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RIMINGTON: Welcome back to CNN's special coverage of the tsunami disaster coming to you live from Sri Lanka. We heard from the head of the U.N. relief effort. He's got to coordinate this massive operation and there's so many billions of dollars now being donated around the world, some people obviously are not leaving it to their governments, from children emptying their piggy banks to individuals who have been donating. I heard today one individual who donated a half a million dollars to try to help in Sri Lanka. People are showing an outpouring of support for their fellow men and woman in this time of greatest need.

For some people, money is not enough. They want to get their hands dirty in a sense. They want to get involved in a most direct way. CNN's Atika Schubert met up with a couple who are not only organizing medical air lifts I should say of aid into badly affected regions, they were flying in those relief supplies themselves.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ATIKA SCHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Christian Von Stroombey and Susi Puspidilarto are a husband and wife team. He flies. She owns Susi Air, a company with two small Cessna aircraft. Susi's homeland of Indonesia was hit by disaster, they decided to pitch in.

They use their planes to open a corridor to the west coast of Aceh, completely cut off from outside help. They were told it was impossible, the airstrip destroyed. But Christian, a German pilot of 16 years was convinced he could land on the 600 meters of runway left. He was right.

CHRISTIAN VON STROOMEY, PILOT: We have carried quite a bit of load to there. We also hope that what we do gives many people hope. That's one very important thing that the people see that somebody cares for them and somebody is able to come to them.

SCHUBERT: And come they did, opening the door to the most devastated and isolated area hit by this disaster. Upon their landing, soldiers stranded here quickly began painting and repairing the runway as best they could. Now other relief workers can follow. Susi Air now flies three to four flights a day, bearing supplies and information. This woman pleaded to travel with them to find her family, missing in Aceh's west coast. As they fly over the devastated area, at first she doesn't recognize her home town, 80 percent of it washed out to sea.

Suzie tries to break the news to her gently but there's no easy way to say it. Suzie Air also delivers good news. These soldiers have had no contact with the outside world. They write down numbers and names, hoping that Suzie air will let their families know they are alive and well. Suzie Air was also first to verify that the island closest to the epicenter had not been destroyed as many had feared, that it survived intact but in need of help, its airstrip fully operational.

SUSI PUSPIDILARTO, But I think it needs some time. They got a little bit sometime, a little bit crazy to break the thing through, ya, that is here and I think other people has to do the same.

SCHUBERT: perhaps the most important cargo on Susi Air is hope. Atika Schubert, CNN, over the coast of west Aceh, Indonesia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RIMINGTON: And when we return, we're going to meet a doctor who survived the tsunami disaster and then turned around to help himself and we will also take a little road trip in Sri Lanka. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RIMINGTON: Welcome back to our special report, the tsunami disaster. We are coming to you live from Beruwala, Sri Lanka. A special welcome to our viewers in the United States joining us for the rest of this hour.

Now there are many ways which people have been able to help. And it's a brewery who has put up its hand in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka's major brewery, the Lion brewery has stopped making beer and a drastic action indeed. Instead they have turned over their entire plant to producing bottled water and in the last few days, they have shipped off to the north and east, two of the hardest hit areas of Sri Lanka, 120,000 bottles of pure drinking water. It is perhaps at the moment the highest priority item that can be shipped around the country.

Just getting stuff down the roads in Sri Lanka is still enormously difficult. Many roads are blocked off, many of the major roads were coastal roads and the water in many cases just came right across and washed them quite literally away. People are jamming onto side roads, up through the hills to try to get to find out about loved ones, to try to get out of the worst hit areas and get aid and other things in.

Now we took a little road trip ourselves, just a few kilometers down a street in Sri Lanka just to unearth the stories that we thought we might find along the way. We found plenty. Let me tell you. Here's our road trip in Sri Lanka.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RIMINGTON (voice-over): Come with us for a short drive down the Sri Lankan coastline where some aid is starting to arrive. The Dutch- funded agency involved here says the desperation is getting greater rather than less. Livelihoods are gone in this village, as well as lives.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So many people along the road they have got washed off and still the bodies are not found, and sometimes in certain families, two or three people.

RIMINGTON: Here not even the wild monkeys are safe. The trees still standing are dying. They have been poisoned by the salt water surge.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm afraid this whole place will become a desert.

RIMINGTON: Down the road, we find a police inspector using vital drinking water to clean up his house. He admits there's no safe water in the area, but he doesn't seem too much concerned. Even if people nearby are reduced to beseeching passing traffic for food and drink. The further we go, the worse it gets. The search for bodies continues under awful and unhygienic conditions.

Even now as you can see behind me, bodies are unidentified and still unburied, although an earth-moving piece of equipment has just been brought in. There's no ceremony, a hole is being dug in the sand and that is where these people will be interred.

The bodies are being pulled from the train that was wiped out with 1,000 dead. Richmond Wilesekeba looks at everybody but still finds no sign of his brother and his wife.

RICHMOND WILESEKEBA, SURVIVOR: We can't identify them because they are so damaged. So I saw some -- about 1,000 bodies that are buried by bulldozers.

RIMINGTON: The bodies that are recovered will rest near the sea that claimed them. On Sri Lanka's national day of mourning, it is hard to imagine a bleaker end.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RIMINGTON: Now, in Sri Lanka, we have had all kinds of concerns about what's been going on in the north of the country, the north and the east and why the concerns are so great is that there has been a great silence coming from those areas. The CNN cameraman, Mark Phillips took a flight over to the east of the country just a couple of days ago and it was almost empty of people. Now what's happened to them is one of the inexplicable aspects of this story. There are grave fears that there are death tolls there still to be judged accurately and they may well go higher.

The same is the case in the northern part of Sri Lanka. Northern Sri Lanka is largely controlled by the Tamil minority, which has been fighting a 20-year civil conflict in that area, trying to claim sovereignty. It's a difficult to place to get into. Stan Grant was the first broadcast journalist, CNN's Stan Grant, the first broadcast journalist to get in there to assess the disaster up in that area. He joins us now. Stan, what's the latest you can tell us?

STAN GRANT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Hugh, I'm at a refugee camp at the moment here. Many of these people have fled (UNINTELLIGIBLE), which was one of the worst hit areas here. But there have been so many areas that have been so badly hit across the north. These people as you say have lived through 20 plus years of civil war. They have seen the worst of human nature. Now they've seen the worst of mother nature, as well.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GRANT (voice-over): They lived here together. They died here together, children, not mere victims, children, swamped by the power of a tsunami that flattened all around them. Where once was the town of Mogativu (ph), there is ruin. The last moments of life captured like still images. The church where hours before there had been prayer, the child care center where laughter was silenced.

MIKE PECHERING (ph): There is a lot of food that has gotten through. The biggest thing now is to get them shelter and get them clothing back on and get basics back into them.

GRANT: Aid workers offering what they can. It is difficult. This is not just a disaster zone. It's also a war zone. After a 20- year civil war, this area of north and northeast Sri Lanka is a rebel Tamil Tiger strong hold. Aid agencies must work with them.

JAMES MARTIN: The idea of a Tamil separation seems somewhat less relevant. I sue queues of trucks outside the authorities here donated by the Sengalese people in the south and I felt very heartened by that.

GRANT: The terrain is tough, roads here heavily potholed. Everywhere there are warnings of land mines, all adding to the stress of providing relief and relief is very much needed. The Tamil Tigers estimate 14,000 are dead in the north and northeast. Another 5,000 missing will take that death toll they say closer to 20,000. As they find the bodies, they cremate them.

(on-camera): You can see these bodies behind me as victims, as just one of the many numbers of thousands who have been killed by the tsunami, or you can see these people as I have, as human beings, as someone who stood here and looked as three little babies, just babies just babies, no more than perhaps 2 or 3 years old, little children who would last weekend have been playing here on the beach and moments later have lost their lives. Now like so many others, now being added to the funeral pyres that are littering northern Sri Lanka. Then there are those left crying because they remember too much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GRANT: I can update you on those figures as well, the death total continues to rise. It rises alarmingly in this part of Sri Lanka. We're now talking about according to the Tamil tigers, figures also, figures coming from the United Nations and other relief agencies here of at least 18,000 to 19,000 have been killed, but another 18,000 to 19,000 are missing, and they tell me that there are no hope of finding any of those people alive. They fully expect the death toll here over the coming few days, perhaps a week to touch at least 40,000. Hugh.

RIMINGTON: Stan, on that basis, it would seem almost imperative that much of the aid effort in Sri Lanka start to shift up into that area. Do you believe that's happening sufficiently at this stage?

GRANT: We're seeing it in a trickle, in dribs and drabs as I'm sure you are, as well. In fact one of the relief agency pit stops, I suppose you could call it is a place where some of the people have coming to stay after escaping from Molativu and yes, they have the bare essentials, but I'm talking the bare essentials. There's a little bit of water. There's some (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ahead.

They're getting a little bit of food and they are trying to put the bravest face possible on it. Kids are kids and they are smiling and they're playing games. Some of the men are sitting around playing cards and trying to forget what they went through. But another man comes to me and he said we have nothing. We have nothing. This is not a good place. And I suppose he spoke for a lot of people when he said that.

I spoke also to one of the priests who are helping to coordinate the aid effort he. He said so many people are coming up to him and saying they simply don't want to live any more. So there is a need. There is a need to get more aid through to here. There is at least 600,000 or 700,000 people who have been displaced in this part of Sri Lanka, as well and, of course, you have a situation here where aid agencies must deal with the Tamil Tiger rebels. They are coordinating the effort and they are trying to get as much aid to as possible. But even they are admitting it is not enough at this stage. Hugh.

RIMINGTON: OK, Stan Grant in northern Sri Lanka. Thank you for that report.

Now, just south of where Stan just gave us that insight into the Tamil held areas, there was an Australian doctor, a young Australian doctor in the port city of Trinkamlee (ph) on a beach holiday when the tsunami struck. He was shortly to graduate in emergency medicine. He found himself not only in an emergency but soon after practicing medicine as he went to try to help the people who had suffered and give emergency first aid in particular. His name is Sandy Gale and I caught up with him just a few hours ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DR. SANDY GALE, SURVIVOR: It was boxing day and I was awakened by what I thought was rain and just water on the glass door that was facing the beach and I just thought, it's either a heavy storm, or maybe a bit more than that. But I didn't really realize what had gone on, and then water level in the room, the water was suddenly streaming through underneath the door and I realized that something was quite wrong and I shouted to Bill, my partner to get up very quickly, and we did. And we still thought it was just a freak wave or a flash flood.

Then we heard about the flood so we were more concerned about our bags and what had happened at that stage, the water was up, going up past our knees, up to our thighs, and then the glass door gave in with the pressure of the water, and a huge wave just came in and surged through the room and took everything with it. And we managed to open the outside door and were sucked out with the wave. And at that point when we were out of the bungalow and we were facing the sea, we saw the water. It was filthy brown and frothy and just at times like a washing machine and surging and then we saw this huge wave just coming around the corner of the bungalow, and the only thing I thought Bill is not a good swimmer, so I would just grab onto him.

And I remember grabbing, remember grabbing and ducking in under that wave and just the pressure, I just felt this huge surge go past us and we managed to pop out the other side, and there was another one coming and we actually got in behind the shadow of the bungalow that gave us a bit of shelter and there were some chains coming down from the bungalow roof that had broken off and we grabbed onto those and we managed to get up to higher ground and we were safe I suppose (UNINTELLIGIBLE) weren't sure because the waves were still getting higher and higher and all we saw was this brown surge of water coming.

And then it stopped and stayed calm and we weren't sure what was going on, and when it, I don't know, 60, or 70 kilometers an hour, this water just sucked everything, cars, boats, buildings, just got sucked out to sea and it was then when we thought something -- this is a tidal wave or something has happened.

RIMINGTON: So what have you been doing in the last few days?

GALE: I am a doctor at home back in Australia, and it was sort of a distraction, we saw what it had done to Sri Lanka and the people here and I've been trying to somehow do our best to help.

RIMINGTON: Have you been seeing things that give you cause for concern?

GALE: Absolutely, yeah. Absolutely. I have seen a few cases of just general diarrhea amongst the children. It's quite, at this point in time, it's so early enough in the event, that everyone either was drowned and killed instantly or they made it alive. They made it and were alive and physically unaffected. But just recently there was quite a violent thunderstorm. And there was pools of filthy water lying in the streets. There's dead bodies, garbage uncollected, sewage that's come up and contaminating water, and the kids, a lot of them have no parents. They don't understand that they can't drink from certain areas. In the next few days, I think it's going to be a great concern and many problems with dysentery, cholera, typhoid.

RIMINGTON: Have you seen any evidence that cholera might of struck already?

GALE: I've talked to a couple of doctors in the more remote hospitals. That was two days ago and there were three cases in children there were unconfirmed but I haven't seen anything.

RIMINGTON: Three cases...

GALE: ... of cholera.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RIMINGTON: So are we on the point of an epidemic? Is it perhaps already beginning to start? Is cholera afoot in Sri Lanka and if it's afoot here, is it happening in other countries that have been so badly hit? Let's go to some who has a grasp of this. Dr. David Nabarro is executive director of sustainable development at the World Health Organization. He joins us now from Geneva. Doctor Nabarro, what are the critical health issues as you see them at this stage?

DR. DAVID NABARRO, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: Well, I would concur with the doctor you just interviewed. We could well be heading for outbreaks of diarrhea on fairly large scale right now. The first kind will be watery diarrhea. And when cholera is not confirmed, we usually refer to it as cholera-like, rather than cholera. That's because there are quite a lot of kinds of diarrhea that produce a lot of water, but at the same time, they are not as bad as cholera itself.

And then later in a few more days, we will see cases of bloody diarrhea or dysentery and these are the main worries that we have got at the moment. There are some other conditions we are concerned about to do with (UNINTELLIGIBLE), infections, pneumonias and then a bit later, malaria and dengue and taken together and given the very difficult conditions in which people are now living, it seems very, very likely that we're going to get some increases in disease and therefore death. From the aid perspective, the challenge is going to be to try to limit that so that it's as little mortality as possible and to avoid a second wave of death following the disaster a week ago.

RIMINGTON: If I think I understand you, then, there's been no confirmed report at this stage that's come through to you, something that you would take as being rock solid that cholera or dysentery has emerged out of this, but it seems from your tone, there's almost an expectation that it will.

NABARRO: You are right. We are very careful before by actually say there is cholera or there is dysentery. And that's the reason why I am being very cautious in saying to you that we are hearing reports of diarrhea outbreaks which are cholera like and dysentery like, but we have not got confirmed cholera or dysentery. When we do, then we are going to be very worried, indeed.

RIMINGTON: Is there anything that can be done more than is already being done, do you think, to try to hold off this threatened epidemic?

NABARRO: There are two things we must do. The first is to continue to try to make clean water available in adequate quantity to people and to do very intensive public education on the importance of drinking clean water, or water that's been disinfected with water purification tablets and the second is to pay serious attention to the quality of sanitation in the temporary settlements where people are staying. This applies in parts of Sri Lanka, including some of those that you have been referring to in your broadcast, but it also applies in other affected areas.

And then we've got to make sure that we've got diarrhea treatment facilities well set up all over the affected area and we do know how to do that. We've got to make sure that's available so that when diarrhea does strike, we limit the outbreak as much as possible and avoid a major epidemic.

RIMINGTON: Dr. Nabarro from the World Health Organization, thank you very much for joining us for this special report coming to you live from Sri Lanka.

When we return, we're going to look at the honoring of those killed in Thailand at Phuket, memorials for those who died.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RIMINGTON: Concerns for the living, but also the honoring of the dead. The stage we are at in the tsunami disaster, as we come to you live from Sri Lanka. In Phuket, Thailand, one of the most beautiful tourist resorts in the world, absolutely packed at the time of the disaster by holiday makers from all around the world, enjoying their Christmas seasonal break, many people died. There were memorials today. Adrian Britain of CNN reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ADRIAN BRITAIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Each with a candle in the tropical breeze and each with a single white rose of mourning, in Phuket tonight they gathered to remember, but how will they ever be able to forget the end of 2004? The year passed away in silent remembrance. Like the New Year, Boxing Day began in tranquility, until fate appeared on the horizon. This video just released from a British family shows how quickly curiosity turned to panic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at that wave.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's 15, 20 feet tall easy. Get in, get in, get in.

BRITAIN: As this video from an Israeli family shows how rapidly the water rose inside their hotel, wading waist-high, past floating suitcases and furniture. Outside a man grabs onto palm trees to resist the torrents, as another man quite older quite literally hangs onto the only chance of life.

Still they come to the tsunami crisis center in Phuket to identify from photographs, relatives and friends they've lost. The British embassy is advising people not to attend mortuaries as bodies are no longer recognizable. All week Luke Simon from Somerset had been holding onto hope that his brother would be alive. It's now been confirmed that a body discovered in a mortuary is that of Pierce Simon. Joy Mullan has flown from London to Bangkok to collect her 16 and 12-year old nephews. The boys mother and father are missing, presumed dead.

JOY MULLAN: On this journey now, it's very important I'm strong because I've got to be strong when I get there for the boys. That's really really important.

BRITAIN: And to end the year, the people of Thailand wanted to show their strength. The candles replaced the traditional New Year fireworks. It has been a sorrowful end to 2004. But the government here says that 2005 must start afresh and the rebuilding of Thailand and its ravaged beaches must now begin. Adrian Britain, ITB news, Phuket.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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