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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Tsunami Disaster

Aired January 3, 2005 - 22:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening again from Sri Lanka.
Before we get back to our reporters in the field, let's bring you up to date on the latest headlines. Let's begin with the death toll. At this time, the official death toll stands at some 155,000 people, in that area, those numbers expected to climb, no doubt about it.

The worst hit area, Indonesia, 94,000 people dead, the largest human loss by any one country. Sri Lanka follows that, 46,000 dead in Sri Lanka but, again, the numbers here expected to grow.

Eight days after the tsunamis struck, relief donations continue to pour in, so far governments worldwide pledging more than $2 billion, private contributions mounting as well, extraordinary the amount of generosity from Americans and people around the world.

Today, President Bush called on two former presidents, his father and Bill Clinton, to help maintain the momentum. The two men will oversee a campaign to raise even more private donations and no doubt you heard that on "LARRY KING LIVE" just a short time ago.

Delivering aid to tsunami victims that remains the greatest challenge right now. U.S. helicopters have begun flying missions to Sumatra's Aceh Province, which by all accounts was hit hardest and is the hardest to reach right now.

Many outsiders are finally getting their first look at the scope of the disaster and CNN's Aaron Brown is heading to the region this week. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and Florida's Governor Jeb Bush arrived today in Thailand for a visit that will also include Indonesia and Sri Lanka.

There is so much to talk about over the course of this next hour. I'm joined right now in New York by my colleague Paula Zahn -- Paula.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson thanks so much.

One thing I wanted to add to your reporting on Colin Powell, we have just learned that about 40 minutes from now he may allow himself to be in a news conference situation after meeting with the Thai foreign minister. If that happens, we will cover it for you here tonight.

Now disasters can produce ironies as well as heartbreak. The walls of water that destroyed so much eight days ago were also a reminder that having enough water, enough clean water is essential to life.

Here's Mike Chinoy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIKE CHINOY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the stifling heat, they wait for what could be the difference between life and death, water they can drink.

"We are drinking untreated water" says 17-year-old Nanda Szweta (ph). We don't have fuel to boil it. Some of our family are already sick."

Amid growing fears of epidemics, the Australian Army, in coordination with UNICEF, has set up an emergency water supply system using purification machines to turn untreated water into 20,000 liters of drinking water every hour.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The town system is still running but it's only running partially and the water that's coming out is not potable or drinkable, so this is an opportunity for having drinking water here accessible to people.

CHINOY: But it's a race against time. Malaysian Dr. Abdul Latiff is running the only intensive care unit in Banda Aceh's only functioning hospital.

DR. ABDUL LATIFF, MERCY MALAYSIA: We are starting to see a lot of water borne disease and they're increasing by the day and quite considerable the increase of the numbers of patients here. There will be a major problem in the next few weeks.

CHINOY: The critical long-term step is to get the city's own water system up and running.

(on camera): But it's a massive challenge. Banda Aceh's water supply comes mainly from its rivers, rivers that are still clogged with bloated and decomposing corpses.

(voice-over): The army was fishing them out all day putting them into body bags for burial in mass graves but there are thousands more. The rivers of Aceh yielding up corpse after corpse with no end in sight.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHINOY: You know, Paula, we talk about the scale of the devastation but sometimes it's really hard to take in and I want to share with you a little bit; this is what was the busy commercial center in downtown Banda Aceh. On the other side of that river was the main market, which was the main market, which was absolutely packed at the time this tsunami struck.

These are all homes and businesses completely flattened. There are bodies just a few meters, a few yards from where I'm standing we won't show you but the immensity of the clean up task is what's so overwhelming.

I took a walk down that way just about ten minutes walk shortly before we came on the air and in the stretch of maybe 100 or 150 yards, I stopped counting after we noticed about 100 bodies just lying by the riverside there, undoubtedly countless more buried in the rubble.

That is the reason why aid workers are so worried about the spread of disease. There are so many thousands of uncollected corpses rotting in the heat and as long as they're out there, the danger of epidemics will be very, very real -- Paula.

ZAHN: So, Mike, how sick are people getting already?

CHINOY: We're at the early stages. I mean it's only been a little bit more than a week. The immediate medical problems are still people who were injured during the tsunami.

In fact, we've heard about a military hospital here where foreign, a couple of foreign doctors who have come in have been forced to do operations without adequate anesthesia, anesthetic, without adequate sterile conditions because otherwise the patients would die.

But what doctors are saying is as the days go by you will begin to see more diarrhea, stomach problems, pneumonia from the contaminated dust, so this is a sort of issue that people are really worried about in the days and weeks ahead -- Paula.

ZAHN: Mike Chinoy thanks so much.

I spoke with someone from the U.N. earlier who reaffirmed exactly what Mike is saying. The U.N. is saying at this point tonight that is their chief concern.

Now keeping the millions who survived the tsunamis alive is the most pressing concern but it's not the only task at hand. The daunting job of recovering the dead is falling to many of the survivors and that piece of the story now from Shiulie Ghosh of Britain's ITN.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHIULIE GHOSH, ITN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The grim task of identifying decomposing remains continues, box upon box, crate upon crate, all containing bodies that have not yet been claimed. Some may never be identified.

There are 50,000 local and foreign volunteers systematically working their way through the corpses, which are now beyond recognition. All they can do is take DNA samples and hope at some point a relative will provide a match.

Some of these recovery workers are prisoners who will receive shorter sentences in return for this most appalling of jobs. Others are young Thai students, like these, given the task of cleaning hundreds of bodies in the hopes of finding identifying marks. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They told us to carry the bodies into the back (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to clean the body because the doctor has to take the DNA and evidence that (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a big shock but I'm willing to be a volunteer and this is a duty.

GHOSH: Elephants slowly clear wreckage in the effort to find the 4,000 people still missing in Thailand. Half are foreigners. The Thai government has said it wants to repatriate all the foreign bodies that are identified and they've offered to fly them home for free. What they don't want is relatives swamping the makeshift mortuaries looking for loved ones, something aid workers agree with.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are lots of Thai people working to build makeshift coffins at the moment and they need to be left alone to do this important work and they're finding it very distressing when relatives are going there to try and identify people that they can't recognize.

GHOSH: Among the Thai people entire communities have been devastated. In one village in the worst hit region of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) half the population has been wiped out. Many communities in the southern provinces now depend on reconstruction for their future but how soon areas can rebuild and at what cost is too early to tell.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Again, that was Shiulie Ghosh of Britain's ITN.

Thailand's coasts are lined with hotels, many of which now lie in ruins and in some cases home videos recorded the giant waves that swallowed up the resorts and the people staying in them. The images have been horrifying to watch and tonight we return to one story of many.

CNN's Aneesh Raman reports from Phuket, Thailand.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The moment devastation struck the Kamala Beach Hotel the world has seen the images and heard the sounds. More than a week later this is what remains a sight reminiscent of a war zone.

The gargantuan task of rebuilding falls on hotel manager Wisutt Kasavatanano (ph). He has seen the video enough to never want to see it again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you see it two or three times, you'll remember the whole thing, you know, just where you work and live for.

RAMAN: It was just a few hours after the waves came in that Wisutt inland at his house came rushing to the scene. His reaction was visceral. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I look around yelling just to double check, you know, to make sure if someone can hear me or anything so I can help them.

RAMAN: The majority of guests that come here come often. The connection between the staff and tourists is beyond professional and makes the large number of missing extremely personal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are like part of my family. I mean they for sure they had to know the name of the staff, so it's more like a family.

RAMAN: The lucky ones, like these staff members, now clean away the same debris that killed those they knew. The process is surreal but it must go on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We should be able to prevail this Thai nightmare.

RAMAN: The hotel will be rebuilt. New guests will arrive perhaps unaware of the hallowed ground upon which their holiday retreat stands. But for Wissut, the effects will linger, the missing always haunting him. His guilt is tragic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How I could be able to answer all the questions about missing people makes me feel responsible.

RAMAN: One hotel of thousands trying to start anew, aware that as much as everyone might try what happened here can never be forgotten.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RAMAN: And, Paula, that really is the crux of what the people here face. They have to rebuild and rebuild quickly, all the while coming to grips with the enormous reality of what has just taken place.

ZAHN: That's going to take terrific will to do just that. Aneesh thanks so much.

Ahead on the CNN special TURNING UP THE TIDE, stories of survival against the odds. They lie by sheer luck in many cases while so many others died. Now they're trying to make sense of the terror they withstood.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: The pictures say it so powerfully the scope of this disaster, the number of dead, the number of homeless, almost too vast to even comprehend. That is the big picture.

There is a smaller picture, of course, the survivors, the individual or family torn apart by grief suffering loss. But no matter the hardship, they seem to share a common bond. They're united by hope and faith. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Many regions still untouched by medical hands. My personal opinion having seen the destruction is that these towns that have been given based on the body counts only a small fraction of the final death toll that is likely to be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Perhaps the biggest challenge now is the water and the sanitation and the emergency food and the emergency shelter for hundreds of thousands of homeless.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We're trying to provide people what they require the most at this time, like food, utensils, water, clothing, et cetera.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's all water and sanitation equipment, water tanks, pumps, taps and latrine slabs so basically toilet facilities. There's 27 tons going on the plane and what it will do is bring clean water to at least 175,000 people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're trying our best here. We're collecting money. Yesterday as well we collected money from the temple.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People are bringing everything, clothes, food materials and medicine, syringes, bandages or whatever, whatever are needed they are bringing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to be a huge operation. Clearly, we're four days out from this event already. Bodies are lying un- refrigerated, deteriorating rapidly. The Thai authorities have done a quite excellent job I think in quite extraordinarily difficult circumstances. This would challenge the most developed country in the world, the scale of this problem.

"The sea is like our mother, the land our father," he says. "We love the sea and respect it like God but now we are weary."

"We are petrified" he says. "We wonder now can we continue our livelihood on the high seas?"

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were so generous. They were missing the village. They were missing their families and they would -- they brought up food and supplies and we all sort of camped out on top of this jungle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was speaking with people who have lost their homes and a number of fishermen that have lost their livelihood and to be able to get on a plane and get away from it left me with a very unsettling feeling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was no villages left standing between Melabo (ph) and Chelan (ph) which is about 100 kilometers north of Melabo. It's like a nuclear blast has hit the area and it's completely leveled everything, except just for a few structures. We've seen nothing at all of the ones that were built out of wood and thatched roofs and that constitutes probably the most.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Entire families have been wiped away. Children have been separated from their parents. There are dead bodies all over. We are more worried about the people who are in the forest and are injured because no aid reached them yet. I hope the government can do something for them.

"My boat is somewhere out there" he says. "I don't know where my family is."

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.

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. 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 scarce.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): My main thoughts were about the people who died. Nothing was clear. We figured some had been taken to sea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But my friend here died. I know that from their body. I'm searching but (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I saw him, it was really exciting for me. When you see what happened, you see the carnage and you realize that how lucky we are as a family.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They called him the miracle boy and today there was one more miracle waiting for little Jonus Bergstrom (ph), his father. The 20-month-old was separated from his parents when the tsunami hit Phuket.

An American family found him unconscious, wrapped in blanket at the top of a hill. No one knew if he'd even survive but he did. His father, recovering from his injuries in another hospital, wondered if he'd ever see his little boy again. His prayers were answered.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I was frightened. I did not think I would survive. The rescue team found my son in the mangrove not me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I knew I had to let go of one of them and I just thought I better let go of the one that's the oldest and a lady grabbed hold of him for a moment but she said she had to let him go because she was going under and I was screaming trying to find him and we thought he was dead. I'm just so thankful that I've still got my two kids with me. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't imagine that if you had just lost your entire worldly possessions and perhaps more, parents, children, that you would turn around and offer kindness. One man went down to the village or whatever was left of it.

I don't know how he did it and brought up rice, some of the best tasting rice we've ever had, and he didn't have to do that. I don't know why he did it and I think it's a testament to the Thai people, the generosity of spirit, just a magical group.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: So, the question this raises, of course, how important is faith and religion, not only for the survivors but those of us watching this unfold from thousands of miles away.

Joining me now is the Reverend Rick Warren, author of "The Purpose-drive Life." Pastor, great to see you, welcome.

REV. RICK WARREN, SADDLEBACK CHURCH: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: So, pastor, you know for centuries even people of faith have been asking the question "God, why now, why this?" How could a loving God allow for humans to suffer in the way we've witnessed over the last eight days?

WARREN: Well, that of course question has been wrestled by far more brilliant minds than me, Paula, over centuries and there are some theological and there are some philosophical answers.

But you know personally I've been at the bedside of a lot of people who've experienced tragedy and I found that explanations are not comforting. What we need is strength.

And I think it's important to realize that God has emotions too and that God is grieving over what has been done. The Bible tells us that we are to release our grief to God. That's the first thing. Jesus said, "Blessed are those who mourn."

And I think the first thing we need to do is not ask why because honestly I don't know the answer to that and I don't think anybody does. I think trying to --

ZAHN: Are you troubled though that you don't know the answer to that because I am sure you are peppered with that question day in and day out as people go through their lives?

WARREN: Yes. Well, I just -- I believe in my own humanity that like an ant trying to understand the Internet, a human being I don't think has the brain capacity to understand why everything happens the way it does.

I do know this. I do know that we find more comfort in asking what rather than why and that is what now? What do I do? And there we get a lot of very helpful things from scripture like "Release your grief to God." The Bible says to be honest about it. It's OK to be mad. It's OK to be angry. I'm angry. I have seen things that have grieved me and if you don't get angry when you see things like this, then you don't really have a heart.

And, a good place to start would be to read the book of Psalms where God says it's OK to pour out all of your emotions. But then, beyond that, I think we have to -- we've got to reach out to each other and this is clearly happening in the international community.

I'm very excited to see what's happening literally all around the world. People say where is God in this? Where's God in this whole situation? I'll tell you where he is. He's in the hearts of compassionate people who in a pouring out of generosity.

In our own church the moment this thing hit, people left and were on the scene helping. I heard about the tsunami even before it hit the news because of pastors who e-mailed me within five minutes of the earthquake that were friends and immediate outpouring of relief. I think God is in all of that.

ZAHN: Well, it is obviously very encouraging to see this massive outpouring of support all over the world.

WARREN: Yes.

ZAHN: We probably should make note of the fact that most of the victims so far has been Muslim. How does Islam explain a catastrophic event like this?

WARREN: Well, I don't know how Islam would explain this event. I do know that natural disasters have occurred and, you know, from the beginning of time and it's very clear.

The Bible says that the world is not a perfect place. This is not heaven. And when people say well this was an act of God. Well, if that's an act of God why isn't every birth an act of God or why isn't every sunrise an act of God?

I don't believe God caused this in the sense that God -- the Bible says God does not take pleasure in the suffering of men. It's very clear about that and so what we need to do instead of asking for explanation we need to ask for strength.

And we need to turn back to things that we know are true that God sees. God cares. God loves. God offers strength. God works through even bad things. He can bring good out of bad as long as we give him the pieces.

The big problem is we must refuse to be bitter. Bitterness prolongs the pain. Bitterness never did anybody good. It's stewing without doing and in all of the grief we have to go forward saying, "God, I'm looking forward. I'm looking at what do I have left, not what have I lost."

And, of course, there isn't a whole lot left with many of these people. These people didn't have a lot to deal with in the first place. They were -- it is amazing that the poorest of the poor often are hurt the hardest.

And it is our duty, it is our duty as Americans and as believers of all faiths, by the way, to show compassion, to show charity, to be there in that instance. We are blessed to be a blessing and, of course, I believe America should be leading the way in this.

ZAHN: Well, it appears as though we are right now, at least we're getting some credit for that, some universal lessons for us all to remember, Reverend Rick Warren thank you for your time tonight.

WARREN: Thank you.

ZAHN: And coming up on this special CNN report TURNING THE TIDE, the politics of charity. The U.S. has pledged $350 million in tsunami relief so far.

Jeff Greenfield looks at what's to be gained by giving.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Here are some other stories making news tonight.

A car bomb exploded near the headquarters of Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi's political party, four people killed, 20 others wounded. Allawi wasn't inside the building at the time. At least a dozen others were killed in separate bombings across Iraq. Officials say insurgents are trying to disrupt the upcoming elections.

Problems for Prozac, big ones. An internal company document shows that Eli Lilly, the maker of the antidepressant, knew 15 years ago the drug could be potentially dangerous. The document shows that a small number of patients who use Prozac were more likely to attempt suicide than patients who use similar drugs. Lilly officials say their drug is safe.

The man who blew the whistle on Vioxx, FDA scientist David Graham, is upping his estimate of the number of people who died or were hurt after taking the drug Vioxx. His original number was 28,000. Now he says it's more like 139,000. Vioxx was pulled off the shelves last fall.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay proved today he is one savvy politician. He asked House Republicans to reverse a rule they adopted in the fall. It is known as the DeLay rule, and it allowed House leaders to stay in power even if indicted. DeLay faces possible indictment in Texas. His request was approved.

Time to go back to Anderson Cooper in Beruwala, Sri Lanka, who has been on the ground there for some 36 hours.

Anderson, I'm curious. I know that you have had the opportunity to talk with families who have lost so much. How are they managing?

COOPER: Yes, it's interesting, Paula.

Just about anywhere you go in Sri Lanka, you ask anybody, did you lose somebody, everyone will say yes, whether it's a close relative, whether it's a child or a parent. Everybody here has lost somebody. They know of somebody who is no longer here. And it's so -- it's a hard thing to sort of comprehend how they're doing with it. I mean, in these villages, there's just devastation. In so many areas, there's destruction and block upon block is just gone.

And so, you know, you go in these places and you talk to people, and, you know, they smile and they talk to you very politely and yet you wonder really what is in their heart and how do you wake up every day when there's nothing to wake up for, when your family is gone, when your village is gone, when your home is gone and you don't really have a sense of what's to come? People have heard that aid is coming.

And they've seen some local NGOS, nongovernment organizations, doing work here. And there are many local organizations doing work. And they're the ones who are predominantly doing the work. But there's not really a sense of, how do I rebuild my shop? How do I rebuild my home? Most people here don't have insurance. And, you know, it's that not knowing. It's that wondering, what does the next day bring?

And it's about 9:30 in the morning here right now. And a lot of people are probably wondering right now, what's going to happen next? -- Paula.

ZAHN: Do you have any sense right now, Anderson, of how many people need aid who haven't gotten it there?

COOPER: It's basically impossible to know at this point.

You know, the death toll is some 46,000. There are reports up north that the death toll could be in the -- 40,000. And the Tamil Tigers, the separatist group, have quoted some numbers in that range. But you simply don't know. Some people have just simply disappeared. There are people who have been buried in mass graves. There are people who are still out in the ocean who are just underneath the water.

You look out at the water. It's calm now, but every day, just a short time ago, there were some people walking along the shore, and they were not walking to have a morning stroll. They were walking to see if their relative or if their loved one or if some body washed up on the shore, because every day across Sri Lanka, the ocean is giving back some of the bodies that it took last week.

And so, at this point, there are no real accurate numbers about how many people are in need, how many people are injured or wounded, and how many people simply have lost everything and need some sort of financial assistance. It's too soon at this point. There's not enough -- it's impossible to get a sense of the big picture right now, Paula.

ZAHN: And easy to understand that. Anderson, thanks so much. What a lot of people are wondering tonight, Anderson, is, if you plan to donate money, it's helpful to remember that warning for consumers, caveat emptor, let the buyer beware. In other words, know where your money is going. Watch out for phony solicitations. Give to reputable organizations that will use the money in the most efficient way.

Joining me from Chicago is Daniel Borochoff, president of the American Institute of Philanthropy.

Good to see you, Daniel.

DANIEL BOROCHOFF, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF PHILANTHROPY: Good evening, Paula.

ZAHN: So, how do people know that their money is going to end up in the right hands?

BOROCHOFF: You want to base it on the track record.

We have got, fortunately, a lot of groups here that have experience helping out in a crisis, particularly in Asia. The American Institute of Philanthropy at CharityWatch.org has identified 23 groups that receive an A or a B rating from us. We rate charities A-plus to F. So that's something that is really important.

We want to see what they're doing with the cash, too. That's really key. Also, you want to think about short-term vs. longer-term aid. Doctors Without Borders today, as I mentioned to you earlier, have received enough for the emergency need.

So, before you give, find out whether they still need money for the emergency needs, because, Paula, this thing is going to go on for a year or more, and people need to stay in there and follow this, because new needs are going to arise and there's a lot of displaced people here. There's going to be a need to rebuild communities. A lot of the communities have disappeared, unfortunately.

ZAHN: Boy, when I hear you say a year, it makes my heart miss a beat. It's hard to imagine that it will take that long to heal things over there.

I want to put up on the screen right now a sample of the kind of reporting your institute does to give people an idea of how various charities rate, Red Cross at the top. All these organizations we see on the screen getting A's, A-pluses or A-minuses.

How do you grade these charities?

BOROCHOFF: Well, we look at how much money is actually going to a program purpose. Most of these groups are able to get 70, 80, 90 percent other the purpose. They should not spend more than $25 to raise $100.

These groups are financially efficient and they're getting your money where you would want it to go. ZAHN: Does religious affiliation matter as you rate these charities?

BOROCHOFF: It actually isn't a criterion in the rating, but that's up to each individual.

But I think any of the victims here aren't going to really care what religious affiliation the group is. If you're hungry, you're starving or thirsty or need medical care, you're not really concerned about that. There's many groups. People can give to groups related to their religion, if they want to.

ZAHN: We've already heard some pretty nasty stories about people putting writing checks or putting cash in envelopes and already having given to illegitimate organizations. What are the obvious red flags we all should be looking for?

BOROCHOFF: Well, if they try to pressure you too much, so you don't really get a chance to think it through, that's certainly a red flag. Don't respond to spammy e-mail. And the link -- anybody can set up a phony Web site that looks legitimate. Don't give out your credit card number to somebody that calls you.

Also, you need to give direct. A lot of people are asking for money. And you really need -- there's no need to go through a middle person that might divert your money. There's -- eBay people are selling stuff, saying the proceeds will go to charities. You don't know whether that will happen. There's no checks and balances on eBay.

ZAHN: Dan, we're going to leave it there. Thank you so much for your help.

BOROCHOFF: OK. My pleasure.

ZAHN: I think that will give people some excellent guidance.

I believe we're going to be taking a live shot now. We continue to wait for a news conference that Secretary of State Colin Powell will be holding in Bangkok with Thailand's foreign minister. One of the things that the secretary of state has said so far today, that he thinks one of the biggest challenges is actually -- is not only the disbursement of funds, but getting the supplies to the victims who are in such dire need.

We're going to take a short break here and come back to that, we hope, live.

Also ahead, a task of presidential proportion, how two former presidents plan to help raise even more money for tsunami victims.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: And you're looking at a live picture coming out of Bangkok, Thailand, at this hour. That's Thailand's foreign minister speaking to reporters after spending the day with Secretary of State Colin Powell.

We are waiting for the secretary to make some public comments here. But what I can share with you is what he has said so far today. He says he does not expect U.S. financial aid for tsunami-hit Asian nations to increase for now. As he visited the region, the Bush administration still stinging after some pretty potent criticism that the U.S. was being stingy in its relief efforts and that it was doing too little, too late.

The secretary saying about six hours ago that, at the moment -- quote -- "I don't see a need for any financial assistance." He is saying that there is no shortage of money at the moment, but the real challenge is the distribution of the aid out of the ports and off the airfields. We know from talking with several people from the U.N. tonight that there are logjams of supplies at a number of airports across Indonesia.

Let's listen to the Thai foreign minister now to see what else we can learn.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

SURAKIART SATHIRATHAI, THAI FOREIGN MINISTER: ... humanitarian relief in this part of the world.

And we're going to meet again in Jakarta. And we would like to make sure that the meeting in Jakarta will achieve both objectives. One is the consolidation of the relief effort, and, secondly, to work together for the setting up of the early warning system and monitoring system.

Again -- and Governor Bush has also offered us to send experts to work with us on the early warning system, to provide confidence back to foreign tourists and Thai tourists into the area. Florida has a lot of experience in dealing with national disasters. So, we'll be working closely.

We're very appreciative of Governor Bush in coming here and talking to us, including the director of USAID, several people responsible for disaster relief from the United States. So, we appreciate your presence here. And after this, they'll be going to Phuket to see with our own eyes and get briefed by our people in Phuket.

We are committed to be working closely with United States and we are thankful for the kind gesture. I have said to Secretary Powell that he has won the hearts of us in Asia. And we will continue working closely with them.

Secretary.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: Thank you very much, Mr. Minister.

Governor Bush and members of my delegation are very pleased to be here to extend to you, to the other members of your government and to the Thai people once again our condolences and to let you know that we're in solidarity with you, as you deal with this crisis.

I want to send my regards out to the families of those who have lost loved ones as a result of the tsunami and to again express our sympathies to the royal family on the death of his majesty, the king's grandson, Khun Poom.

Let me also express how grateful we are for the assistance that the Thai government has given to American victims of the tsunami. The aftermath of the tsunami is a tragedy for the entire world. And the United States will certainly not turn away from those in desperate need.

And I think we've demonstrated in recent days our willingness to provide support, not only financial support, but the military support that our Pacific Command is now providing with the presence of C-130 aircraft, with helicopters from our ships at sea, with the Orion P-3 planes that are performing reconnaissance missions, and with the command post that's been set up.

I want to express, especially thank the governor of Thailand for allowing us to use the air base at Utapao as a central hub for support not only to our Thai friends, but to other nations in the region. And it really will be playing a very important role in the days and weeks ahead.

Governor Bush and I have had excellent meetings with the prime minister and with the foreign minister. And our discussions will enable the United States to determine how it can best support Thailand's work to address this disaster. We're already working closely and we will examine some of the areas that we discussed this morning that the minister has touched on, such as an early warning system and such as environmental expertise that we have that might be of assistance to the Thai government and other governments in the region to make sure that any environmental damage that has been caused can be repaired or at least mitigated.

So, Mr. Minister, I just want to again assure you of the support of the American people and especially of the United States government.

I should take note of all of the private contributions that are now being raised in the United States to assist in the effort. And President Bush's announcement yesterday that former President Bush and former President Clinton will be leading this effort is further indication of the solidarity that we will show toward our Thai friends and to our other friends in the region who are in need.

I would now ask Governor Bush to say a word.

GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: Thank you, Secretary Powell and Mr. Foreign Minister.

I join Secretary Powell in offering our deepest sympathies and the sympathies of the President Bush and the first lady of the United States and the Thai people, and especially to the royal family who have suffered so greatly from the tsunami disaster. My home state of Florida suffered four hurricanes a few months ago and so we share this experience, because we know it will take a huge financial and human toll on the people of Thailand and in the region. And the American people want to offer a helping hand. Secretary Powell has mentioned the financial support through the military and through the government.

But I can assure you, as we're speaking here today, literally hundreds of thousands of American citizens of all walks of life have been moved by this tragedy and are providing financial support, motivated by the announcement yesterday that the president made that both President -- former President Bush, 41, as we call him in our family, and President Clinton, have agreed to serve as a catalyst for additional financial support.

I received an e-mail this morning when I woke up from a regular e-mailer that writes me regularly, saying his granddaughter had, outside of a church, thanks to the help of her mom, baked cookies and raised $138 yesterday in support of the relief effort. My guess is that, as we're here today, literally thousands of other acts of kindness like that are taking place in our country, because we've been moved by the tragedy.

And my hope is that, after the relief efforts, which you all have handled so well, subside, that the long-term recovery efforts will go well and that the United States, both the citizens of the United States, as well as our government, will be with you shoulder to shoulder to provide support.

Thank you for hosting us.

SATHIRATHAI: Thank you.

We'll now take questions from members of the press. Because of the time constraint, we'll have time for about four questions. The first question will be from the Thai press.

And before you ask your question, please state your name and affiliation. Also indicate the person to whom you're addressing the question to.

(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

QUESTION: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) microphone.

QUESTION: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The question is directed at the minister of foreign affairs. Regarding the assistance that the United States will provide to Thailand in terms of technical assistance and...

ZAHN: That is the question of the night, how much the U.S. will ultimately provide to this tsunami-stricken area. You have just heard the secretary of state pledge deep cooperation with Thailand when it comes to an early warning system and financial aid to help the folks who are so deeply affected by the tsunami. You also saw a very deep family effort on the part of the Bush family to try to make things better in this place that has seen such great horror.

We're going to take a very short break here. We'll be back with more on the other side.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Governments from all over the world have pledged more than $2 billion and counting in tsunami relief. The Bush administration has donated $350 million and hints it may offer more. And that does not include the massive aid program already under way by the U.S. military.

The White House is keenly aware that America's response may do more than just help people in need.

NEWSNIGHT's Jeff Greenfield explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST (voice-over): In the face of this or this or this, it seems almost obscene to think of anything except saving and rebuilding lives. So, should we even care if the live-saving food and water and medicine comes with an American face or if there is a strategic advantage if three American presidents are now enlisted in this work?

Are we really prepared to think about whether Washington's response will reduce the hostility toward American policy and intentions in so many parts of the world?

(on camera): Well, the blunt fact is that the strategic implications of such aid are almost surely on the minds of American policy-makers and they have been ever since the United States first began providing large-scale assistance to a devastated world.

(voice-over): When the U.S. began pouring billions into the work of reconstructing Europe after World War II, the so-called Marshall Plan, there was a hardheaded premises behind the humanitarian help, the very real concern over the Soviet Union's attempts to exert influence and even control over parts of Western Europe.

JOHN F. KENNEDY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In a new alliance for progress...

GREENFIELD: President Kennedy's call for an alliance for progress in Latin America in 1961 came as Fidel Castro was consolidating his control over Cuba and providing a Marxist alternative to Democratic reform in that impoverished continent.

When Egypt's Anwar Sadat signed an historic peace accord with Israel, Egypt joined Israel as one of the two biggest recipients of U.S. foreign aid. And even today, as the likely next Palestinian leader suggests a turn away from violence, the U.S. has begun offering a form of direct aid to the Palestinian Authority. And now, more than a decade after the Cold War ended, the world's impoverished regions may be breeding grounds not of communism, but of a more general instability and frustration throughout what strategist Thomas Barnett calls the "Gap," a worldwide band of failed and failing states.

Some of those states were hit by the Christmas tsunami. No one has to think long before imagining where such frustration might lead. Such strategic thinking is likely far from the minds of most of those who have sent money and help to the survivors. Simple human compassion is clearly at work here. But the sad reality is that even as the waters are calmed and the dead buried and the living put back on their feet, the business of facing a dangerous world carries on.

Jeff Greenfield, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And if what happened in South Asia is almost impossible for adults to comprehend, for children, it's even that much harder. Many of the dead are children. And many children who survived are now orphans. Around the world, children are absorbing these facts, trying to make sense of them, among them, the fifth graders at this Heschel West Day School in California.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAM KLEINMAN, TEACHER, HESCHEL WEST DAY SCHOOL: Something very tragic happened over the weekend, over the last five days. And did any of you hear the news and hear what had gone on?

Ari (ph)?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a big tsunami.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I came in this morning, it was a natural opening, what happened over break. And the kids right away started talking about it. And what causes it and where was it and the magnitude of people that had perished in it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's like so scary. One second, you're just there and then everything's gone.

KLEINMAN: You kind of open up a subject and you let them go with it. You see how deep their thoughts are, how far do they want to go with it, how much can they handle. So, in this particular subject, there were lots of terrible issues that did arise, questions about parents losing children and children losing parents and parents making choices between children.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I heard a story that a mom had two kids and like a 14-month-old and a 5-year-old and she had to let one of them go. KLEINMAN: But, again, you open up a topic and you let them kind of go with it. You keep in mind how far you want them to go, but you don't quite know what they're ready to handle until you hear them start to talk about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like, what if your mom and dad just went there or something, and it's like, the next minute, you don't know if they're alive. You don't know if they're dead. You don't know what's the story.

KLEINMAN: Trying to get them to close their eyes and kind of visualize, what's it like? What's it like for those people on the other side of the world? How do they feel? They're kids. What do kids want? What are kids feeling? How would you feel?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Same as them, like, sad, scared, like, I wouldn't know what to do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We could help donate money. We can start fund-raisers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We could give them food.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We should send them like medicine and vitamins, because they're probably weak.

KLEINMAN: We always work at having them get into somebody else's shoes, because empathy is the beginning of all of this, empathy and understanding. I think they just have to sometimes be quieted down from their regular life. And they need to have a space to think. And that's what happens in a classroom.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Well, I think adults even need that space that she's talking about.

And that wraps it up for tonight's special report. We continue our special reports again tomorrow with Anderson Cooper in Sri Lanka and hope to have Aaron Brown live with us from one of the hardest-hit parts of Indonesia.

I'm Paula Zahn. Thanks so much for joining us tonight. For most of you, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" is next.

Have a good night.

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