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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Special Report: Tsunami Aftermath

Aired January 1, 2005 - 17:00   ET

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


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We'll take you into the heart of the disaster with some harrowing, first-hand accounts. But first, a look at the top stories.
International aid is flowing to tsunami victims, but there are a few bottlenecks. Our correspondents report shipments are piling up at some distribution centers, because there aren't enough trucks and planes to reach people in remote areas.

In Argentina, a tragedy of different proportions. Anguish in Buenos Aires where a Thursday night fire killed at a disco club killed at least 175 people and injured about 700. About 4,000 people were in the club when a flare apparently started the blaze. Authorities have detained the club's owner and want to question his partners.

And a New Year's Day service dedicated to praying for world peace. Pope John Paul II also prayed for victims of the Asian earthquake and tsunamis. He prays the worldwide relief effort, calling it a show of solidarity that gives hope for better days to come.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: After days of misery, there are signs of hope for some tsunami survivors on this New Year's Day. The first shipments of relief aid have arrived in some of the most damaged areas of Indonesia.

Desperate crowds rushed to U.S. helicopters shortly after it landed carrying food and medical supplies. CNN's Mike Chinoy was on board one of the first relief flights. And during the trip, he reports seeing entire villages flattened by the tsunami waves.

The death toll across South Asia and East Africa now stands at more than 140,000.

Meanwhile, new trouble for tsunami victims in Eastern Sri Lanka: flash floods this time. Heavy rains washing out refugee camps and makeshift homes. No casualties reported, but the water is complicating aid delivery efforts.

And Japan's prime minister announcing today his country is pledging $500 million in aid for tsunami victims. Japan had previously offered $30 million. The increase makes Japan the single largest contributor to relief efforts.

In isolated parts of Indonesia, tsunami survivors are just now receiving assistance. A U.S. Navy helicopter took food and milk to part of Aceh province cut off from the rest country. Mike Chinoy was on the flight. And has this look at the reaction of people who waited days for help.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIKE CHINOY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the first day of the year, we join the Navy on a flight to a town that no longer exists. At Banda Aceh Airport, sailors from the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln loaded an SH-60 helicopters with containers of milk and nutritional supplements. We climbed aboard. And commander Frank Michael, Lieutenant Bo Beaman and Chief Petty Officer Gerry Schwartz ease the chopper into the sky.

It was the first military flight bringing relief to the areas worst hit by the disaster. The mission was to find the town of Keude Teunom (ph), if there was any left and deliver food to the survivors, if there were any. Keude Teunom (ph), population just under 10,000 was a 110 kilometers, 70 miles south down the coast. Within minutes we were flying over a wasteland.

These had been towns and villages. The tsunami left them looking like they had been hit by a nuclear bomb. The sea on this day seemed so calm.

Eventually, a few intact structures came into view, including several mosques evidently built more sturdy and able to withstand the waves.

We neared Keuda Teunom. And then suddenly, we saw them, a small number of survivors. One emerged from the rubble and frantically raced towards us, but his hopes for help were dashed. There was no safe place near him for commander michael to land.

It took ten minutes of circling to find a location, ten minutes to begin to absorb the unimaginable catastrophe that had befallen the town.

We touched down in a cloud of dust. Gerry Schwartz put the first box of milk out, and a crowd swarmed towards the chopper. They were people, but they acted like a hungry, wild pack.

Fearing they might swamp the chopper, Gerry Schwartz pleaded with the crowd to move back.

(on camera): We are the first people that these survivors have seen since the disaster. Their desperation is palpable. They have hey nothing to eat, almost nothing to drink. Their entire town is in ruins.

These people, though, are at least alive. We've been flying for an hour over Banda Aceh along the coast and until now, we didn't see a single living person. f (voice-over): Aceh has drowned, this man cried. There's nothing left. We're finished.

One man grabbed our microphone. Thank you, thank you, he repeated. As soon as the last box was gone, Commander Michael lifted off. But a second SH-60 soon arrived, carrying a U.S. Navy medical team.

On the way back, the crew, seemed lost in thought.

The aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln is steaming just off Banda Aceh, it's the nerve center for the U.S. military's relief operation. We landed to take on more fuel.

There are 6,500 sailors on this ship, a senior officer told me. They're dying to come ashore and help.

Then we left the carrier, heading back for more supplies to Banda Aceh Airport, now full of American, Australian and Indonesian relief planes.

C.P.O. GERRY SCHWARZ, U.S. NAVY: Mike, it was overwhelming. I've had 20 years of naval aviation, I've picked everyone up from downed aviators to stranded Mariners. Never before had I experienced anything as overwhelming. Fearful yet really exhilerating to see that we're actually helping those in need. And they are clearly in need, dire need.

CMDR. FRNK MICHAEL, U.S. NAVY: That we're here. And we've got a lot of helicopters. And we're going to keep doing what we're doing.

CHINOY: Then it was back to Keude Teunom, day one, of a mission of mercy that will have to last a very long time. Mike Chinoy, Aceh, Indonesia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: Aid comes from a lot of places, nations, relief agencies, corporations and generous individuals. Our reporters are uncovering countless examples selflessness in this this crisis. Our Atika Shubert has the story now from one Indonesian town closest to the earthquake's epicenter.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ATIKA SHUBERT, 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. SHUBERT: 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.

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

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: As the scope of the disaster comes into clearer focus, the world's generosity is increasing as well. As we mentioned a few moments ago Japan is pledging $500 million and the U.S. is sending $350 million. Along with Western Europe, Saudi Arabia, China and India, international aid is adding up to more than $2 billion.

In addition to sending more aid to tsunami damaged areas, President Bush has ordered the nation's flag flown at half staff beginning Monday as part of a week of mourning for the victims of the tsunami disaster. CNN's Elaine Quijano is live at the White House with more on that -- Elaine.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, to you, Fredricka.

Well, it was just yesterday that President Bush announced in a written statement that the U.S. would in fact, be increasing its initial pledge of $35 million to $350 million. And today, as you mentioned, in his weekly radio address, the president offered his condolences and announced another show of support for the tsunami victims.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The carnage is of a scale that defies comprehension with over 100,000 deaths reported. I have signed a proclamation calling for our nation's flag to be flown at half staff this coming week. As the people of this devastated region struggle to recover, we offer our love and compassion and our assurance that America will be there to help.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

QUIJANO: Now to reinforce that message, the U.S. military says it has ships, planes, helicopters, as we have seen, and personnel being put to work in the affected areas. Military officials saying that this is really one of the largest logistic and lift efforts in quite some time in that region.

Meantime, of course, another public gesture tomorrow, Secretary of state Colin Powell will be headed to the region get a firsthand look at the damage of some of the affected areas. He will report back what he finds to the president. And of course will be joined by the president's own brother, Florida governor Jeb Bush. Now, Governor Bush oversaw relief efforts in his own state of Florida after four hurricanes hit there last year -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: And Elaine, $350 million pledged. Where is this money coming from?

QUIJANO: Well at this point, still a little bit unclear. What Secretary of State Colin Powell said yesterday is that what the U.S. is going to do is look at existing accounts that are already in place for foreign aid set aside, money that they hope is ready cash that they will be able to tap into.

The White House has indicated that it will not go along with some suggestions that perhaps they take some of the money that is supposed to be set aside for Iraq reconstruction and use that to help the tsunami victims. The White House dismissing that suggestion earlier this week -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: And Elaine, has the White House elaborated any further on the choice of Secretary of State Colin Powell traveling along with Florida Governor Jeb Bush?

QUIJANO: Elaborated on their itinerary, Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: Elaborated on why Jeb Bush. We know he's used to dealing with disaster in Florida, but still questions are being raised of this magnitude, this kind of disaster, why he would be a choice man.

QUIJANO: Well, they're not saying anything certainly publicly about that, other than what we have heard from the president's spokesman on this, that in fact it is his extensive experience, but also the fact that after the criticism of the initial response by the U.S., certainly the Bush administration was very much aware that there was a feeling that the U.S. needed to do more. This certainly is something they hope will quell some of that criticism.

A spokesman saying earlier this week that it signifies just the amount of importance by the president sending his own brother, just how important U.S. feels it is to help those affected by this disaster -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Elaine Quijano in Crawford, Texas, thanks so much for that report.

Well, before leaving for south Asia, Secretary of State Colin Powell will talk about the tsunami disaster and America's response to it on Sunday's's "LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER." That program aires tomorrow at noon Eastern, 9:00 Pacific.

KAGAN: A horrific deal finally ends for one California family.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People screaming as maybe the water hit them. It was -- trees cracking, houses exploding, it was just so horrible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAGAN: Some lucky girls share their survival story. And we will share it with you.

WHITFIELD: Plus, another remarkable survival story that comes not from one person or one family but from an entire island.

KAGAN: And later on, what about the U.S.? Are we safe from tsunamis here? We'll show you why scientists are keeping an eye on one fault line that runs directly under New York City.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAGAN: The confirmed death toll of nonnationals in the tsunami catastrophe is now at 246, that includes 15 U.S. citizens. Officials say the number of tourists killed is likely to go up.

A lot of families are still desperately seeking word on their loved ones in their affected jars. But some Americans are coming home, reunited with thankful families and friends and sharing their remarkable stories.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The fears and anxieties...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There they are!

DORNIN: ... finally erased as the Firmage family comes home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, you guys!

DORNIN: James, Vivian, Caitlin, ten, and seven-year-old Mikhala outran a wall of water on Phi Phi Island in Thailand. They were on the beach and noticed the water behaving strangely.

VIVIAN FIRMAGE, SURVIVED TSUNAMI: Really sucked really far back out and then you could just see this ridge of water. And then one of the locals tapped my little one and said, start to run. DORNIN: So, they ran for their lives. Caitlin couldn't see what was coming, but she could hear it.

CAITLIN FIRMAGE, SURVIVED TSUNAMI: The sound was just horrible. It sounded like a jet engine just right, maybe five feet behind you, people screaming as maybe the water hit them. And the trees cracking. Houses were floating. It was just so horrible.

DORNIN: Their hotel was leveled, their belongings suck out to sea. They spent the night on a hill with about 200 others survivors, awed by their survival and the kindness of the local people.

JAMES FIRMAGE, TSUNAMI SURVIVOR: They were so generous. They were missing a village, they were missing their families, and they brought up food and supplies. And we all sort of camped out on top of this jungle.

DORNIN: So much death and devastation. The Firmages said they tried to hide their girls from much of it, but the images won't be forgotten. Seven-year-old Mikhala was keeping a journal.

MIKHALA FIRMAGE, TSUNAMI SURVIVOR: I don't know if I want to write about it, because it was pretty scary.

DORNIN: Both James and Vivian didn't think they would make it out alive, let alone make it home.

V FIRMAGE: I can't describe it. I'm just so glad to be home. I just want to go home.

DORNIN: And that, they did. Rusty Dornin, CNN, San Francisco.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: And most of the tsunami story end on anything but a happy note. More than 800 people perished when a tsunami hit a passenger train traveling to Galle, Sri Lanka. We hear now from one of the few survivors.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Suddenly, the big waves of water rushed into our compartment. The whole area was covered, and the train turned around 90 degrees. Within a minute it, looked like a fish tank. And we were like fish trying to move around.

We could not think of anyone around, I mean my loved ones, wife and daughter. I had to cling onto the roof of the train compartment. I only felt sorry for my family members.

Then we saw the second and third waves coming greater than what it had been. We knew in a moment that we were going to get killed. I told my daughter and wife to do something to rescue themselves. My daughter said not to worry, that she could swim and would try to save her life.

I think she tried to do that. When I found her body the next day it was lying upside down in a swimming position.

I have no words to say about my situation. I feel so lonely now. I lost my loved ones. No one is there to live with me at this house. I have a son who is studying in America, a 20-year-old. These days, there are some relatives but they will go soon. I'm isolated.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAGAN: Well, as you can see from that one man's pain, food and medicine cannot cure all of the problems that plague tsunami survivors. Coming up next, we're going to meet one man who is catering to their spiritual needs.

Plus, the story of two Sri Lankan widows bound together by their grief.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Experiencing the horror of the tsunami firsthand could throw anyone into a crisis of faith. CNN's Malika Kapur tells how one man of the cloth, himself a survivor of the earthquake that triggered this dissaster, is helping others deal with it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALIKA KAPUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Prayers of thanks from those who survived. Prayers of remembrance for those who didn't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Let us be silent for a moment so we can feel God's presence.

KAPUR: Bishop Alex Dias has been leading Christians of the Andaman and Nicobah (ph) Islands in prayer for 20 years. He says the need for it now is greater than ever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Community has been totally shaken up. Everywhere we hear pains (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

KAPUR: This woman says her husband is missing. She doesn't know if he's still alive or dead.

(on camera): They've lost their homes, their lively hood and many cases some family members. Still the refugees say the crisis has deepened their resolve in faith. After all, they're now survivors.

(voice-over): And Reverend Dias is determined to see them through this crisis. He's taken it on himself to coordinate relief efforts and provide water, food, medicines and solace.

BISHOP ALEX DIAS, FPOR BLAIR, ANDAMAN ISLANDS: Why does it have to happen to me? What have I done? This is the question that people very often ask. But you know, I try to tell them, look, it happened to the son of God, Jesus himself. And so I say the question perhaps should be asked is why not me?

KAPUR: His words, a bomb for broken spirits. UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I almost had a heart attack on the field, but after taking God's name at the prayer services here, I feel better.

KAPUR: Bishop Dias himself had a narrow escape. As the earthquake struck, he ran outside his home as everything inside came crashing down. Bishop Dias says prayer saved him, and prayer will save his community. He has little doubt that a society that prays together, heals together. Malika Kapur, CNN, Port Blair in the Andaman Islands.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAGAN: Two sisters in Sri Lanka are trying to figure out how they'll live after the tsunami left them widows. CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has that story from the devastated island nation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These devout Christian sisters had celebrated Christmas together the day before, as they had done for the past 40 years. Even after they were married, they chose to live next door to each other. And on the morning of December 26, they woke up at 5:30, had a traditional Sri Lankan breakfast of rice and dal, and then, three hours later, watched as both of their husbands drowned in the tsunami while saving their children.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): When the second wave came, we were looking for our son, and my husband went out to search for him and found him in a tree. He rescued him, and both of them were running for their lives. Later, my son was found alive, but my husband was missing. He had been drowned.

GUPTA: It all happened in less than 20 minutes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): The water was rising, and the sea was coming. We ran for our lives, but it caught us, and the water almost came up to our necks. We managed to escape from the first wave, which destroyed our house. The second wave came and took us by surprise. There was just so much water, I didn't know what to do. GUPTA: Remarkably, their story is not unique. Swerna (ph) and Marianna (ph) Sebastian Francis are among the 3,000 displaced people in this town alone. Its coastal location turned this already deprived fishing community into one of the most vulnerable in the country. Most here are now widows and orphans.

(on camera): So what are they going to do now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We don't know what to do next. Right now, we don't have a source of income. We'll need to look for jobs, but they are scare.

GUPTA: Days later, they have their health, for the most part. Swerna had her leg banged up pretty badly. Marianna has bandages all over her hand. But they're not from the tsunami, she tells me, but rather from carrying the coffin of her husband and then refusing to let it go.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAGAN: Another report from CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the confirmed death toll from Sri Lanka is now more than 45,000.

WHITFIELD: Well, at least 18,000 of the deaths in Sri Lanka are in rebel-controlled areas. Straight ahead, we'll have a rare look at those areas first ravaged by war, now devastated by the tsunami.

KAGAN: And later, lessons from a century's old story, save the inhabitants of one Indonesian island.

(COMMERICAL BREAK)

KAGAN: Let's look at the latest developments in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami disaster. Fears are growing that unsanitary conditions may lead to a second wave of deaths in Southern Asia. An official with the World Health Organization tells CNN that cholera, pneumonia and malaria could break out if survivors can't get clean water and better sanitation.

Assassins have struck again in Iraq. This time insurgents killed the chairman of the provincial council in Baqubah, which is northeast of Baghdad. The man's brother was also killed.

A Palestinian official has made sufficient public comments. Mahmoud Abbas says that rocket attacks against Israel are useless, because they provoke Israeli retaliation. However, Abbas also rejected Israeli demands that he crack down on Palestinian militants. Abbas is a frontrunner in this month's elections for Palestinian president.

WHITFIELD: Now returning to CNN's complete coverage of the tsunami disaster and its aftermath. The latest death toll has pass 140,000. And an aid official with the United Nations says as more victims are found that number could reach 150,000.

We keep getting astounding views of the damage. This satellite photograph shows a small island in Indonesia before the tsunami hit. But wait just a minute and see what it looks like now. Right there. The very landscape is changed. Part of the island is simply gone.

Help is just reaching some of the more remote areas days after the destruction. The rest of the world has already promised $2 billion in international aid.

KAGAN: There are flash floods and mud mudslides in Sri Lanka today, caused by heavy rains over the last several days. It's making rescue efforts even tougher. Also making relief work difficult, the fact that more that much of Northern Sri Lanka remains a war zone, controlled by the Tamil Tiger rebels. CNN's Stan Grant shows the cooperation between the rebels and the relief workers. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STAN GRANT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (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 Molativu (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 PICKERING, AID WORKER: A lot of food program getting through, biggest thing to get them shelter and get basics back into there.

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 stronghold. Aid agencies must work with them.

JAMES MARTIN, ARBETER-SAMARER-FUND: The idea of a town in Sengelese seems somewhat less relevant. I saw queues of trucks outside the authorities here get donated by the Sengelese 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): We can see the body ies 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 two or 3 years old, little children, who would last weekend been playing here on the beach, and moments later, have lost their lives. And now like so many others, now being added to the funeral pyres that are littering northern Sri Lanka.

(voice-over): Then there are those left crying, because they remember too much.

Stan Grant, CNN, Molativu (ph) North Sri Lanka.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: Well, the tsunami has caused a loss of livelihood for thousands of people as well whose jobs were washed away by the giant waves. Gorgeous resort areas, were turned into rubble. But CNN's Aneesh Raman says even though paradise has been lost for now, many places hope to rise from the ruins.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On Phuket Island, the contrast is surreal, almost incredible. What was once a pristine vision must be painstaking three restored from among the debris left here in moments last Sunday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And that is what remains of my office.

RAMAN: That's the huge task for hotel owners like Nina Zenn. But she says that because some resorts were left standing, the island can recover, and it must.

NINA ZEN, HOTEL OWNER: We really have to go on and we owe it to the people around us, the people who have worked very hard to develop this destination, both the agents, the operators, the people, the local people.

RAMAN: Livelihoods are at stake. Thailand's tourism industry brings in $10 billion annually. And Nina's employees rely on three peak months to sustain them for the rest of the year. It is that thought that keeps her going.

ZEN: The negative part of your brain says, I want to put down my papers and just pack my bags and go. But then when you see staff looking at you, what are you going to do?

RAMAN: Phuket is all that remains here. Other tourist areas like Phi Phi Island to the coastal shores of Kao Lak are devastated. Rebuilding them will take months if not years. Nina realizes she is more fortunate than most and working helps numb the reality.

ZEN: Getting it up and running is a part of reliving the trauma. Because if you sit down and do nothing, it creeps in you and in the end you don't do anything. But it's just that initial push to get up, walk.

RAMAN (on camera): It is now a new year on Phuket Island, an utterly inconsequential evet given the dire situation that still exists on the ground. But amidst the sorrow, the resilience of the human spirit is already beginning to show. Aneesh Raman, CNN, Phuket, Southern Thailand.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAGAN: There are stories of survival and hope after last Sunday's earthquake and tsunamis. One place is being called a miracle island. People in one area along Indonesia's coast survived the destruction. And as CNN's Atika Shubert tells us they have their forefathers to thank.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHUBERT (voice-over): Just 40 kilometers or 25 miles from the epicenter of one of the biggest earthquakes in recent history, the island is Sumulu (ph) amazingly intact. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the earthquake picked up and shifted the entire island.

Yet from our plane window, we can see idyllic seaside villages seemingly impervious to the devastation that has swept the region. This plane was the first to arrive since the earthquake, amid rumors the island was underwater.

(on camera): Before this plane arrived, the island of Sumulu had lost all communication with the world. And many had believed the island had been simply wiped off the map.

(voice-over): The local governor is overjoyed, without any other means of communication, this is his chance to get the word out that the island survived, but still needs help.

"Thanks be to God that we did not lose many lives," he said. "But we did lose our homes, schools, and mosques."

In fact, the island did not escape unscathed. Scores of homes on the northern coast were destroyed and need to be rebuilt. What saved lives was this scene, villagers running for the hills after the initial earthquake. Islanders received a tsunami warning handed down from generation to generation.

The island's harbor manager explained it like this. The story goes, in the 1800s, there was a quake so big it brought the sea onto land. So whenever there's an earthquake, we run for the hills.

A few days later, residents came down and returned to normal life thankful that they minded island folklore. In what is otherwise a sea of despair, this is an island of hope. Atika Schubert, CNN, Sumulu, Indonesia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAGAN: Well, among the dead in southeast Asia there were a lot of western tour is on Christmas vacation.

WHITFIELD: But there were also adventurers caught by the waves while wandering the world. We'll have one of their stories is coming up next.

KAGAN: Plus, could it happen here? we'll show you a faultline that runs underneath Manhattan. And we're going to tell you why scientists say this fault line should not be ignored.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAGAN: Among the thousands of international tourists killed in the Asian tsunami, 15 Americans are confirmed dead. One of them is an Alaskan fisherman, Brian King, whose loved ones are devestated by his death at a dive resort in Thailand. CNN's Kimberly Osias has that story from Seattle, Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) KIMBERLY OSIAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Brian King loved adventure and could navigate rough waters. The 59-year-old commercial fisherman made his livelihood off the Alaskan coast.

JANET NICHOLAS, BRIAN KING'S SISTER: Brian had a zest for life that he wanted to live each day.

OSIAS: King wanted to sea the ocean from a different view, from below. So he traveled to Phuket, Thailand, to learn how to scuba dive.

A week before Christmas, his sister, Janet Nicholas, got an e- mail from him. She didn't know it would be the last.

NICHOLAS: Hi, Janet and Mark, don't worry, I'm fine. I'm at a dive beach resort about 100 kilometers north of Phuket. I'm going to start diving lessons soon.

OSIAS: Ten days later, Janet got a call from Brian's wife, Rita, one she refused to believe.

NICHOLAS: It looks like Brian didn't make it. I can't process that. What does that mean? I mean, he could be in a hospital. He could be, you know, be washed around or on a fishing boat or being picked up by a diving boat. He could be stranded.

OSIAS: Hours later, a second call from a friend King was supposed to dive with.

NICHOLAS: He and his two divers went in there and had to dig through that rubble. Brian has been smashed beyond recognition, but I know it's him.

OSIAS: King may have been sleeping when the tsunami hit early Sunday morning.

NICHOLAS: They found Brian. They said he was still wrapped in a sheet.

OSIAS: Janet believes her brother put in earplugs Christmas night, earplugs that may have blocked out the screaming and crashing waves.

NICHOLAS: My quiet moments, when I wake up in the morning and first open my eyes, I realize it's very real. It's not just a bad nightmare.

OSIAS: Kimberly Osias, CNN, Seattle, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: An earthquake, deadly tsunami and thousands of deaths. Could it happen here? In the heart of New York's Harlem, the answer is a disturbing one, perhaps, say some scientists. We get details from CNN's Alina Cho in New York.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 125th Street, heart of Harlem, home to the Apollo Theater, office of former President Clinton, and a fault line seismologists say is one to watch.

(on camera): To the people who say, listen, this is not going to happen here, you say what?

LEONARDO SEEBER, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: I say this is wrong. It is sooner or later going to happen.

CHO: You believe that?

SEEBER: The issue is how probable is it and how big will it be?

CHO (voice-over): Leonardo Seeber, senior seismologist at Columbia University, says no one knows the answer to that.

SEEBER: New York City would be here. And there's a concentration of earthquakes which is real.

CHO: Seeber says as recently as a month ago there were small tremors near the 125th Street fault. Seeber says these events merit more study.

SEEBER: Is Manhattan receiving, or Manhattan -- New York City receiving appropriate or balanced attention, scientific attention relative to other places around the world, such as California.

CHO: And what's the answer to that question?

SEEBER: And the answer to that is no. Because as I said before, there's risk -- there's considerable risk in Manhattan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very low risk.

CHO: Geologist Chris Sneed likens the 125th Street fault to scar tissue, a relic of ancient seismic activity that is now dormant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You need several ingredients for a major earthquake. It's not enough to say there is a fault.

CHO: Yet residents in this Harlem neighborhood who are closely watching the devastation in Asia wonder if something similar could happen here.

DESIREE MARTINEZ, HARLEM RESIDENT: We're surrounded by water. And anything could happen.

CHO: Movie makers have fantasized about such an event, and there are theories. Some argue if the volcano in the Canary Islands near Africa suddenly erupted and collapsed into the Atlantic, it could trigger a tsunami that could reach the east coast.

Seismologists like Seeber say the risk is minimal. But like the potential for earthquakes in the area, should not be ignored. Alina Cho, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAGAN: Has you considering all sorts of things we never thought of.

WHITFIELD: No kidding. We don't want to think about that.

KAGAN: No.

Terrible tragedy often brings with it immense kindness.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just when you think the world is rotten and can't get any worse, something horrible happens and you find out that people are OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAGAN: Up next, we're going to take a look at what the world is doing so help out the smallest victims of the tsunami disaster.

WHITFIELD: And later, the story of this past week's destruction, told through a poignant collection of still photographs.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: As we've been witnessing, many of the victims of the deadly tsunami were children. And it's touched many people's hearts. The aid group Save the Children has been -- or rather has seen a big jump in donations and concern for the smallest victims. Here's CNN's Mary Snow.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Save the children.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Half a world away from the destruction in an affluent American suburb.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for calling save the children.

SNOW: The phones don't stop ringing, people desperate to help the smallest victims of the tsunami.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you guys have a list of things that would be useful as donations?

SNOW: People walk in the door to give. And Eileen Burke is heading out the door, destined for Indonesia.

EILEEN BURKE, SAVE THE CHILDREN: I think you kind of check the emotional state at the door. This is the most dangerous time for children as well, where they'll become victim to diarrhea, cholera, outbreaks of disease, and that's why it's incredibly important for us to get in there.

SNOW: Burke is heading to help fellow staff members in Save the Children in Banda Aceh, where some of the group's own aid workers were killed.

BURKE: You realize what little it takes to make a difference. It's extremely motivating.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Save the Children.

SNOW: The group says it's seen the biggest outpouring in its 70- year history, more than $2 million in the last few days, some of it from children.

BURKE: A man called in and the dollar amount was $700.13. So, I said 13 sounded like the piggy bank. And it was his kids' piggy bank.

SNOW: But it's not just money.

BURKE: We had a truck driver call from the Mid West, Edward, he wanted to drive a truck, because that's what he could do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I took a couple of calls from people who wanted to adopt children.

SNOW: With images that some here find hauntingly familiar.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It has brought back memories of 9/11 with the pictures of people on the wall, and looking for survivors.

SNOW: Eileen Burke considers herself fortunate to be able help survivors firsthand. Other finds comfort in witnessing the generosity.

BURKE: Just when you think the world is rotten and can't get any worse, something horrible happens and you find out that people are OK. And you know, that there is good in people's hearts.

Mary Snow, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAGAN: Tsunami relief is making news across America. Rescue workers from Fairfax County, Virginia are on their way to South Asia. Six members of the county's elite urban search and rescue team left last night. They'll help the U.S. agency for International Development direct efforts to aid earthquake and tsunami survivors.

WHITFIELD: Then there's the firefighters in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the'll send some of the proceeds from their calendar to aid fellow firefighters and their familys victimized by the giant wave in Indonesia. The calendar was originally a fundraiser for a firefighter's memorial. Firefighters in Jakarta trained recently with the Albuquerque crews.

Mormons and Muslims are joining to aid tsunami victims. The Church of Latter Day Saints is sending a load of medical and hygiene supplies out of Salt Lake City to Asia on a plane chartered by Islamic Relief Worldwide.

Now for the latest on relief efforts in South Asia, just log onto our special Web site at CNN.com/quake. That's where you're going to find ways to donate help, look up emergency hotline numbers and see even more amazing stories of survival.

WHITFIELD: And finally tonight, we're living through an epic disaster whose full scope may never be known. The images have left many speechless, perhaps the best way to understand the magnitude of the disaster and fragility of life is to capture this moment in time through still photographs.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BETH NISSEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After all the home video of the tsunami it is startling to see it in a photograph, to see what witnesses meant by a wall of water, to see, captured in a frame, what monstrous waves did to resorts and villiages in Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, to see what the churning water did to people in these places only vaguely remembered from high school geography, Tomilnadu, Nicobar and Madras, and Sumatra, Colombo.

It all happened so fast, the waves and mud and debris, burying the old and the young, especially the young, those too small and too weak to hold onto anything as the water surged in, or pull themselves to safety before the recreeding waves pulled them to out to sea.

The still pictures could hardly show the scope of human losses in their mounting thousands, but they could show the loss face by face.

It all happened so fast, so little time for ceremony, the marking of a life. Officials struggle to keep records of the dead. Volunteers hurried to build coffins, fill them, close them, and send the enclosed souls onward.

Even days later, so many souls were still missing. Relatives searched for survivors. Survivors searched for their families. Dazed, battered tourists went home to Sweden and Norway, Germany and New Zealand, South Korea and South Africa. Dazed residents were evacuated by the thousands to higher, drier ground.

Those who could, stayed where they were in what was left of home, collected water, collected food, stood in line for both and for fuel. Slowly, rubbled airstrips were cleared, the first of the aid from around the world arrived: emergency water supplies, critical medicines, fat sacks of food, bundles of clothing.

Tent villages were set up for millions of the suddenly homeless. The wounded were treated in hospitals hastily cleared of debris in open air clinics set up on beaches. Doctors readied for the next wave of the disaster, disease, with tetanus shots, anti-malarials.

There was little anyone could do to prepare survivors for the hardest part of what is to come, simply, going on. Millions are still stunned by loss, so much life and hope washed away, so little to hold onto, except faith that those so violently wrenched from the world have found peace, faith, that those left behind in the world will again find peace. Somehow. Somewhere. Someday. Beth Nissen, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAGAN: Be a long time before we forget those images.

WHITFIELD: If ever.

KAGAN: Our coverage is going to continue here on CNN.

Ahead in the 6:00 hour, more on the Fairfax, Virginia search and rescue team that is now headed to Sri Lanka.

WHITFIELD: And that's going to it for us. Carol Lin takes over our tsunami coverage in just a few minutes.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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