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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Turning the Tide: Supplies Beginning to Reach Remote Areas Affected by Tsunami

Aired January 4, 2005 - 22:00   ET

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


AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: We are at the airport at Banda Aceh. In a few hours, I guess about an hour and a half, Secretary of State Powell will land here. He's no doubt in the air from Jakarta this in anticipation of the donors' conference that will take place tomorrow, which will establish the long term issues that people across the region need.
But at this point, nine days into this horrible human tragedy, it's not really about long term. It's about short term. It's about getting food to people who are hungry and getting water to people who are thirsty, getting medicine to people who are sick and it's where we begin this hour.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN (voice-over): In western Sumatra, as it is in so many other parts of the region, it remains a race against time to pull out survivors, many in desperate need of medical aid after more than a week with no help at all.

MICHAEL BAK, USAID: Some of the cases are so severe doctors said that if we hadn't have plucked them they probably wouldn't have made it another few days.

BROWN: The people now being airlifted from remote villages are just a fraction of the overall injured but already there is a shortage of hospital beds in Banda Aceh. New arrivals instead taken to a temporary hospital ward, a tent just off the edge of the runway.

With nowhere to put new patients, many who are well enough to leave the hospital won't because they have no place to go. International helicopter crews are being asked to limit the number of injured they bring back here.

CAPT. LARRY BURT, U.S. NAVY: It is an issue that our aircrews are having a hard time dealing with. You know you see children out there and, you know young people that are seriously, seriously injured that you know they need help and there's -- it's hard to leave them there until we get this problem fixed.

BROWN: It is hardly the only problem. Lifesaving supplies have begun to reach some parts of the devastated regions but the missions can look and feel overwhelming.

REAR ADMIRAL DOUG CROWDER, COMMANDER, USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN: I tried to explain it to my son the other day but in the low-lying areas where many of the villages were that met the sea, it's just pancaked.

BROWN: The walls of water that swallowed this corner of the world nine days ago washed away roads and bridges, many not very good in the first place, making an already difficult task only harder.

Not all obstacles, of course, are predictable. Back at the airport a commercial cargo jet, a Boeing 737, collided with a water buffalo on the airport's only runway halting aid deliveries for nearly 18 hours.

In Sri Lanka, progress has been better. U.S. Marines have landed on the island with a half a million pounds of relief supplies.

LT. COLONEL DARREN MARGOLIN, U.S. MARINE CORPS: What we've been asked to do has a large focus on distribution, moving some of the supply that's here and engineering.

BROWN: In the next few days many more of these giant cargo planes and many more Marines will arrive. Those already here expect it will take roughly four days to unload all they have brought and to reach this area in the south of Sri Lanka where here too the clock is running.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: This airport is the hub, the center of a large part of the American relief effort here and it is formidable. Helicopters began loading supplies, sailors, U.S. sailors loading those supplies onto smaller helicopters.

As the day goes on large Seahawks from the USS Abraham Lincoln will bring in more supplies. They ferry them largely to the western part of the island where the damage is extraordinary and the roads themselves are inaccessible.

Much of this operation with the help of the military, he would be the first to say, is being run by Michael Bach who is with USAID and is with us now. What keeps you awake, Michael?

BAK: Just knowing that we're bringing people back who can be safe and have some food and water and that the people who are left out in the field are going to have something to eat tonight. That's what keeps us going.

BROWN: Are you -- are there things that you need that you can't get right now?

BAK: The issue of hospital space is clearly, clearly one that we're working on and we're finding solutions to and I think you'll see in the next day or so some beds coming online very quickly.

The other thing we need is, you know, to get our C-130 transports in from down in Jakarta with supplies drop off. You see all the trucks behind you ready to deliver things.

BROWN: So, the problem isn't that you don't have resources here. It's that the stuff you need to get out to people you don't have yet, is that it?

BAK: We have enough on hand right now to load onto the helicopters that are going out to the western coast. We're sending about 70,000 pounds a day of assistance, including some medical personnel. You know the water buffalo yesterday really, really was a humdinger.

BROWN: Did you look at it yesterday and go, if it can go wrong it will go wrong?

BAK: That's pretty much what I said and you just stay patient and focus on the folks that are being airlifted in and eventually before I knew it the plane was gone and we got a few loads in tonight.

BROWN: We've been watching you for the last, I don't know, five or six hours. You have this enormous task. You remain incredibly upbeat about all of it. In some degree this is what you trained yourself to do but nobody imagines this is how you do it.

BAK: Yes. You're absolutely right and I think one of the things that keeps me going is seeing all these men and women off the USS Abraham Lincoln who I understand there are 1,700 who have volunteered and want to get out here on the ground and help out. They keep me going.

The volunteers with the International Organization for Migration, a key partner in delivering this, you know, they're sleeping two hours a night, three hours a night and yet they're out here at the crack of dawn to get food moving.

BROWN: We appreciate your time. I really do know how busy you are and I think, I told you this earlier we appreciate enormously what you're doing out here. It's an extraordinary piece of work. Thank you.

BAK: Thank you.

BROWN: Michael Bak with USAID.

There is -- there is at this stage, to be honest, I mean you're at the point where you're not talking a lot about survivors but you are talking still about bringing people in. People who have been badly hurt in many cases are still coming in.

There's a field hospital that's been set up about, I don't know, ten, maybe 20 yards away from where I'm standing. A short time ago a helicopter landed, brought a young child, four or five, to us, brought that child in on a stretcher, family behind him. It is the kind of thing, to be honest, that keeps aid workers going.

If all you think about are the literally tens of thousands of people who have perished here, if all you think about are the problems you face, this sort of work is overwhelming.

But when you see a life saved, and they are in these trucks literally saving lives and the tents beyond the trucks literally saving lives, then you are, your spirits at least are nourished again and replenished again and that's true for everyone who is involved in this extraordinary operation.

One other observation on that before we throw it to New York again and to Sri Lanka, nothing much happened here until the Americans arrived. The Americans have gotten a lot of criticism in a lot of places for how they responded, how bit the number was and all of that.

But everyone you talk to here will tell you that until the American military and the USAID, the State Department people got here and started to organize a relief effort, nothing much moved. The place was in a state of shock and the Indonesian government acknowledges it hasn't done very much or very quickly.

Now we have much more from here. We're also joined in this hour by Paula Zahn who's in New York and Anderson Cooper who is in Sri Lanka. It's good to at least talk to you both today.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Aaron.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Aaron, I'm standing on a beach. I know you can't see me, Aaron, but our viewers at home can. I'm standing on a beach on the western coast of Sri Lanka and I just want to show you a scene which is happening on beaches, every mile of beach here in Sri Lanka.

These are people who come out every day, usually in the morning to see what the tide has brought in. Some of them come looking for loved ones, for bodies that may wash ashore.

Others, like these women here, are combing through the sea shells that litter the beaches and looking for any personal belongings or any valuables that may wash ashore because mixed in with these sea shells you find children's shoes. You find personal belongings, things that people were wearing when they were at the beach, when they were sitting here enjoying the water when those waves came in.

This man over here for the last half hour or so has been very intently going through the sea shells trying to find something, anything of value that he can either use for himself or perhaps sell or perhaps a personal item that he could return to a family.

It's the kind of scene you see -- I mean it's not an overstatement to see. This is a small island and you just see this no matter what beach you go to, no matter what stretch of sand there is.

There are people searching and there are thousands of people here in Sri Lanka who are still searching, not only beaches like this but searching for their missing, searching for their dead.

I had a woman who came up to me. Yesterday I was talking to her. Her daughter was killed in a church and she says, you know she kept saying to me what about my daughter? What about my child?

And there's nothing you can really say to her because there is no system here in place to find those who are missing. It's going to hospitals. It's going to morgues. It's a grim task as is the task of these people every morning on the beach -- Paula.

ZAHN: Thanks, Anderson, and I guess, Aaron, as I hear both of you talk tonight I'm struck so much by the contrast of stories we hear, those incredible stories of miracles where people have triumphed under great odds and those who have lost in such an enormous way and then contrast that with those folks who are hanging on to a sliver of hope.

And a lot of Americans who spent the holidays in South Asia when the tsunami hit have returned home safely but, as you know, many have not. One young woman who is missing is Nicole Weissberg, a 27-year- old graduate student.

She had planned to meet her boyfriend in Phuket, Thailand just after Christmas and sent him a text message from there the day before the tsunami hit. Well nobody has heard from Nicole since then.

Joining me is Lindsay Weissberg, Nicole's cousin and in Denver tonight, Nicole's boyfriend Morgan Browning who searched for her in Phuket, good of both of you to join us at such a tough time in your lives.

So, Morgan, you last heard from your girlfriend, we said, the day before the tsunami hit. Then you had arrived in Phuket. Describe to us what happened at that point.

MORGAN BROWNING, SEARCHING FOR MISSING GIRLFRIEND: I arrived on the afternoon of the 27th. We had arranged to meet at the airport and she was not there, so I started asking around, seeing what had happened and tried to gauge just how bad this really was.

When I eventually didn't meet her, I talked to some people who were at Khao Lak because that's the place where she was at, at the time, and found out that it was hit quite severely and that she was probably in a hospital up around there.

So, I learned the best way to get up there and the next morning I took a bus up to a hospital into a city called Takopa (ph) and went and just searched around the hospital looking for her and they also had, you know, some of these makeshift morgues that you hear about, so went to the morgues as well trying to find her and that's pretty much how it started out.

ZAHN: So, have you heard anything since then that gives you much hope?

BROWNING: Little things, every now and then, most of it, however, has just turned up empty. She was on a diving trip right before she was about to meet me and so I spoke with her diving company and that for a little while looked promising but it turned out not. So, we're just continuing the search and I know that she's out there and we're hoping to find her soon.

ZAHN: Well, you're getting plenty of help from Lindsay here who's with me in the studio tonight. Describe to us what you've done. We just heard about Morgan's heroic efforts to track her down. LINDSAY WEISSBERG, SEARCHING FOR MISSING COUSIN: We're very grateful to Morgan.

ZAHN: What kind of help have you gotten?

WEISSBERG: Well, my uncle has been coordinating efforts with the State Department and with the Thai government and he has tried to put her name on every list and contact every organization over there that he can.

ZAHN: Has he gotten anywhere?

WEISSBERG: He has not. The State Department assures him that they are going to get him whatever information they come up with but they have not come up with anything. The Thai government is supposedly doing some kind of census over there to take a count of who is alive, who is dead, who is still missing and we have not heard any news on that front either.

ZAHN: Does your uncle feel like -- we've heard so much criticism of the State Department. We know that countries, such as Germany and Sweden, have had much more success in identifying exact numbers of people missing, different story and the State Department would say a different set of circumstances for Americans.

WEISSBERG: Sure.

ZAHN: Has your family felt well-served by the State Department?

WEISSBERG: We're all very frustrated. You know, I don't know how I can compare them to another organization. I think that they're doing their best I'm sure. I think it's hard. They've gotten supposedly a lot of names multiple times. They're sifting through that.

ZAHN: Yes, they're saying in some cases four to five times reporting the same missing person.

WEISSBERG: Right and my family is guilty of that as well. I mean we've, you know, a lot of us have called so we want to make sure that they know to look for her so, you know, every family is going through the same things.

ZAHN: But you're still hanging on to some hope there aren't you?

WEISSBERG: We are. We want some information. You know, every day that goes by it gets harder but we just want some shred of information that someone has seen her or someone knows something.

ZAHN: And we hope you get that.

WEISSBERG: Thank you.

ZAHN: Morgan, I know you had to make a very difficult decision to come home from Phuket. How hard was that for you to finally do just that? BROWNING: It was very difficult. I found after spending three days in Phuket and then I spent three days in Bangkok as well, I realized that it might be best to come home and broaden the scope of the investigation and the search. And so, I realized that coming back here we could get her name into the public, get her face out there and hopefully get lots of people to search for her.

I got a great phone call today, about an hour ago from a man who is in Canada who called me out of the blue, said that he's a leader of a construction team and every member of his construction team is carrying a photo of Nicole and they're going to search for her while they're in Phuket. And it's things like that that just really I think are fabulous and the goal of what we're trying to do now.

ZAHN: That has got to give your family great solace.

WEISSBERG: It does.

BROWNING: Yes.

ZAHN: Well, we wish you tremendous luck.

WEISSBERG: Thank you.

BROWNING: Thank you.

ZAHN: And hope that it leads to some positive news for your family.

WEISSBERG: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: Good luck to both of you and the rest of your family members.

BROWNING: Thank you.

ZAHN: Still ahead on this CNN special report, in Thailand some of the youngest tsunami survivors are now back at school trying to shake the awful memories of the deadly holiday break. We'll see how they're coping.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Welcome back.

We have more of our extensive coverage of the deadly tsunami in just a moment.

But first a look at another very important story Iraq. A group led by terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has claimed responsibility for ambushing and killing the governor of Baghdad. At least one of his bodyguards was also killed. The White House says the assassination will not stop the upcoming elections.

Meanwhile, in western Baghdad, a truck packed with explosives blew up near an Iraqi National Guard barracks. Eight guardsmen were killed, at least 60 others wounded.

And in separate attacks around Iraq, four U.S. soldiers and one Marine were killed.

The number of U.S. soldiers wounded in Iraq now exceeds 10,000. The Defense Department says more than half were wounded so badly they can't return to the battlefield. More than 1,300 soldiers have died since the war began almost two years ago.

Back to our major coverage tonight and that's where we found Aaron Brown, as what he has described as ground central of the relief effort in Banda Aceh -- Aaron.

BROWN: Paula, thank you.

It strikes me that for those of us who are in the middle of it and for everyone watching it, this is one of those stories it's easy to get lost in the horror of it all. How do you explain 150,000 dead or millions homeless?

At the same time, like everything else in life, there's another side. How do you explain a young investment banker from Boston we met on our way over who dropped everything he was doing, cashed in his frequent flyer miles, he's a trained medic, and with no connection to any group just got on a plane to come here to help, which is exactly what he's doing now? In the same way, how do you explain how many people managed to survive this horror and many millions did?

Anderson Cooper tonight chronicles some of them.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): In this small Catholic Church nearly drowned by the sea, a song of faith, frail but clear. Two members of the choir practiced the hymn they were singing the moment the ocean rushed in.

FATHER CHARLES HEWAWASAM, OUR LADY OF MATTERA: I shouted to the people and I said, "Please come in and get back from that door."

COOPER: Father Charles Howasim (ph) was at the altar serving communion when the first wave hit.

HEWAWASAM: We saw bodies floating and there was a vehicle inside and there was another vehicle from the other side.

COOPER (on camera): There was a vehicle, a car here.

HEWAWASAM: Yes, just here.

COOPER (voice-over): More than 100 people were attending mass. Twenty of them died trying to escape.

HEWAWASAM: Also the people were killed (UNINTELLIGIBLE) still you find bodies.

COOPER (on camera): So, you're still finding bodies.

HEWAWASAM: Yes.

COOPER (voice-over): Nimali Fernando's (ph) daughter died in here. She comes to the church every day searching for her daughter's body, praying for her return.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I pray for the body.

COOPER: The water not only robbed lives, it also ripped the heart from this church, a 500-year-old relic, Our Lady of Mattera, the name of the church, the name of the town disappeared from this case. Nine-year-old Dimiker (ph) says he saw the statue levitate and float swiftly out to sea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE.)

COOPER: It was a miracle, he says. For Father Charles the loss of his parishioners was already overwhelming, the loss of the statue simply too much. For three days he comforted the living and buried the dead, each night praying for the Lady of Mattera to come home. Finally, on Wednesday, he went to the ocean's edge.

HEWAWASAM: I was watching the sea and I said, "My goodness. We have to come today." That was the only thing I said. "We have to come today. I have a great mission." I have to console my people. Then she came about 6:30 in the morning. I was just in my pajamas. I didn't have even my coffee, so I was so happy.

COOPER: The statue was found here in debris about a mile from the church, the delicate crown on Baby Jesus' head was remarkably intact. For this parish and for this priest it was one small sign hope would return.

HEWAWASAM: What I feel is that she was with the people, the children. She didn't want to escape or she didn't want anyone to take her and hide somewhere. She went with the people and she carried Jesus. For her to come back it's a miracle really.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: For so many people here hope, a very hard thing to hold onto but something they want to hold onto and they actively search for every day -- Aaron.

BROWN: Anderson, thank you.

We're waiting for Secretary of State Powell, who will land right behind us in a short time and start to deal with the long term problems.

We showed you earlier in the program the small child being taken off a helicopter into the medic tent. It's a reminder. Someone estimated that 35,000 children in Indonesia have been orphaned by this. That's 35,000 children in this one country. This experience is being mirrored across Southeast Asia. These are kids who are experiencing something not unlike what children of World War II experienced 60 years ago. It places an extraordinary burden on their teachers, for one, to help them get through it.

Aneesh Raman is in Thailand reporting that part of the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Classes began on schedule after the holiday break at this Thai school untouched by the tsunami but for these students there are savage scenes close at hand and searing memories.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I was shocked. I was playing when my cousin screamed. Then my father and me ran up the hill and then the water came rushing through. I was so shocked. Then my mother grabbed me and we immediately got in the car and sped away from our house.

RAMAN: Others now forever fearful of the ocean that surrounds this island.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Because it might come again. I'm afraid to die.

RAMAN: Teachers are not just educators now, they're counselors. They're mindful that these students' vacations were nothing short of horrific.

MIKE BRASS, TEACHER: I'm looking for children that might be withdrawn or things like that and just keeping an eye out that way. The older students in the course of the remainder of the week I'll be able to get more things out of them but the younger ones it's hard to draw it out in English.

RAMAN: At a time when hope is hard to find, when tragedy is everywhere, one day at one school and one story of people starting to live again.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Stories like this tend to bring out the better angels among us. We've told you about several already. It also unfortunately tends to bring out the darker side of some.

There have been reports here in Aceh Province that people have gone to refugee camps and claimed children as their own only to sell them in other parts of the world, Malaysia, Thailand. For what purpose it's not necessarily clear.

But the government of Indonesia has reacted to that. It has now said that no child, no child can be taken from the province at all and that no child can be moved until they are formally registered. That is to say they've established whether, in fact, their parents survived, whether the person who comes to claim them is, in fact, a relative or someone with something far worse on their minds.

Again, it's estimated there are 35,000 orphans in this country in the last nine days -- Paula.

ZAHN: Thanks, Aaron.

And, unfortunately, those guidelines went into effect too late for some children. We don't have an exact number. But I think we were just as alarmed by the report as you were, Aaron, from earlier today.

And as nations in South Asia begin the rebuilding process, they are faced with the immediate physical and emotional needs of children, especially those who've lost one or both parents.

And joining me in Richmond, Virginia, is Dr. John Schultz, chief executive officer of the Christian Children's Fund. He's working in developing nations for more than three decades. And here in New York with me, Dr. Rachel Yehuda, professor of psychiatry and director of the traumatic stress program at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

Good to have both of you with us.

Mr. Schultz, first of all, your reaction to this alarming UNICEF report that some of these children literally are being poached from refugee camps and being sold.

JOHN SCHULTZ, CEO, CHRISTIAN CHILDREN'S FUND: Well, it's alarming, indeed. I'm very grateful for this opportunity tonight, Paula, to talk about the special needs of children in these kind of emergencies.

Even in a smaller-scale emergency, children are the greatest at risk, the ones most vulnerable not only to disease and the hazards which are all around them which we're seeing on our screens, but also from these horrific kind of reports that we're now getting. It's alarming. And the first thing that Christian Children's Fund and other organizations that pay attention to the special needs of the children do is to try to get the children into safe havens.

We call them child-centered spaces. And this is the first and the foremost thing. After the survival and rescue needs are met, this is our focus, on the special needs of children in emergencies like this.

ZAHN: So, once you take care of the housing situation, what do you think, then, is the next major threat to these children?

SCHULTZ: Well, it's much more than simply housing. As some of your reports are indicating, these children have suffered incredible kinds of trauma and suffering.

The worst possible outcome would be kind of a double jeopardy, that after they've managed to survive the catastrophe which we've seen that somehow or another they are subjected to either the normal kind of public health hazards or all the perils that are surrounding them in terms of unsanitary conditions, or worse, as we've heard from some of the reports which are now appearing, so that the child-centered spaces are places to bring the children back to some kind of normalcy as quickly as possible.

We attend to the basic needs. We try to provide safe shelter. These are places that are in schools that have been abandoned or we use any kind of backyard areas to begin to return the children to some level of normalcy, some nutrition. For a child, a school is a normal thing, so that, beginning with some sort of basic educational materials, reading, writing, singing stories, the kind of things that the children that you and I know do every day.

ZAHN: And yet it's so hard to imagine them feeling any sense of that joy right now.

Can you ever really cure the long-term effect of what these kids have endured, first of all, the fight for survival and then being orphaned?

DR. RACHEL YEHUDA, MOUNT SINAI SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Well, believe it or not, children and adults are remarkably resilient.

And even though, while you're in the midst of suffering an enormous catastrophe, it doesn't feel like you will ever laugh again or ever feel joy again, in fact, we know from a great many number of people who have profoundly suffered and sustained losses that a time does come when you laugh again and you feel joy again.

ZAHN: What is your chief concern about these kids? You heard what Mr. Schultz just had to say. Obviously, their group is going a long way in to providing shelter for these kids. But then you have all these other issues.

YEHUDA: Yes. And it sounds like it's the right thing to do to try to get children back into some sort of a normal, familiar routine and environment.

But I guess the chief concern would be to monitor the children individually to see if we can detect any signs that there might be longer-term mental health problems that we're concerned about. And it's also extremely important to find ways to give children the opportunity to express their feelings, particularly with somebody that they know and trust. And sometimes children get lost in this kind of a big-scale disaster, or they feel that they don't want to upset adults by adding to their burden and showing even more sadness.

Or maybe they feel, if they show sadness and complain too much, they're the ones that aren't going to be taken care of. They may have all sorts of barriers that prevent them from really expressing their emotions. But that's what's important.

ZAHN: Well, you've both given us powerful reminders of just what these kids face. And we salute the very important efforts both of you are making and folks in your surrounding communities. Good luck.

YEHUDA: Thank you. SCHULTZ: Thanks.

ZAHN: Coming up on this CNN special report, how a small Sri Lankan boy managed to survive a train wreck that killed more than 1,200 others. His remarkable story when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: It's an image that's awfully hard to shake, a train lying crumpled on its side in a jungle clearing in Sri Lanka, its cars twisted and crushed, flipped by the tsunami as if they were tin cans. More than 1,200 people died in the wreck. Many were on their way to the beach for the holidays.

Christiane Amanpour has the story of one young survivor.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bodies are still being pulled from the train wreck that was the west coast's single biggest disaster. Families and survivors are still looking, hoping against hope for a miracle; 7-year-old Shihan (ph) is the Perumavalanga (ph) family's little miracle. Along with his father, he shows us the site where his mother, two sisters, and cousin were killed by the monstrous sea. In his soft child's voice, he recounts the horror and how he survived.

"We were going on an outing to the beach, when suddenly the train stopped," says Shihan. "Then a huge wave hit us, and our carriage flipped over. I hung on to the luggage rack. That was the last time I saw my mother and my two sisters."

And he shows us how terrified and floating in water up to his chest, he clung on until the tidal wave subsided and he was rescued. It is an extraordinary triumph of survival when so many of the smallest, the youngest, the frailest have perished.

Ranjit (ph), Shihan's father, is a fisherman. He had been working and didn't join them that day. This is the first time he has seen the wreck that decimated his family.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): As soon as I heard, I rushed to the hospitals and temples. I could not find them. Then at another village hospital, I saw the bodies of my wife and daughters being unloaded from a truck full of corpses.

AMANPOUR (on camera): More than 1,200 people were killed when the tsunami flipped this train as if it was just a tin can. Ranjit had already found the bodies of his wife, his two daughters and his niece, and he had buried them. And he still didn't know whether his son had survived.

(voice-over): As Sri Lanka's armed forces and ordinary volunteers buried truckloads of bodies in mass graves, Ranjit said that he gave up hope of finding his son, fearing that he too had been buried without a trace. But, two days later, officials called to say his son had been found, and today he shares the nice big family home he built just with Shihan. And all they have left are pictures and shared memories. His wife, Amita (ph), they had been married for 15 years. His two daughters. The oldest one wanted to be a dance teacher.

(on camera): This is you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): With the women of the family gone, a motherless little boy and a bereft husband cling to each other now.

I'm alone, says Shihan, except for my father. He turned 7 as they buried his mother and sisters. He refused to believe they were dead until his father showed him their graves, the two sisters buried in one coffin because there are too few of them for so many dead. Ranjit says he has just one reason left to live.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because of my son only I am living today, because my wife has gone. My daughter's gone. So because of son only, I am living now.

AMANPOUR: And Shihan, he has not yet shed a tear.

Christiane Amanpour, Beruwala, Sri Lanka.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Well, there is, in truth, a significant difference in how the government in Sri Lanka responded to this in the first critical days and how the government here in Indonesia did.

By its own admission, Indonesia was very slow to respond, particularly here in this province, perhaps, it is thought, because there has been a long-simmering insurgency here. But there's also been an insurgency in Sri Lanka.

Anderson, my impression is that both the government and I guess the rebels as well responded much more quickly and much more efficiently there.

COOPER: Aaron, I think probably you're right by comparison to Indonesia, though there are plenty of people here who have been very frustrated by the government's response.

You do see, as you drive around, as I'm sure you do in Indonesia as well, local NGOs doing the bulk of the work. I mean, now, just now, you're starting to see the U.N., other groups, other foreign groups. But it is very small groups of either rich citizens or local NGOs who are getting groups out there to clear the roads. You don't see a lot of central government involvement.

And there's a lot of frustration. There's not even, Aaron, a database at this point of how many people are missing with photographs of who's missing. So people can't find their loved ones, Aaron. BROWN: Do you see a lot of American military presence there?

COOPER: Not at all.

I mean, just yesterday, the Marines arrived for the first time in Colombo, a little bit north of here. They also sent one Black Hawk helicopter down to Galle, about an hour south of here. But that is it. And they were more of an oddity than anything else. You see absolutely very little foreign presence of any sort.

As I said, I've only seen one U.N. vehicle, and that was yesterday for the first time.

BROWN: That's an enormous difference, then, between what's going on where you are across the ocean from where we are. Here, clearly, the American military has an enormous presence and has changed, if you will, the equation on the ground, from nothing happening to something happening.

Pretty clearly, if the Americans were not here -- and Secretary of State Powell will be here in about an hour -- not much would be happening at all. Part of the problem here is that there are plenty of goods and it's very hard to get them here. A bottleneck has developed in relief aid.

We'll take a look at that after the break, as CNN's special coverage of the recovery from our worst national disaster continues in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is a CNN special report. Here again from Indonesia, Aaron Brown.

BROWN: Much has been made of the relief plane and the water buffalo that shut down the airport here for 18 hours yesterday. But even without water buffalo, organizing a relief effort on the scale the world is trying to achieve in this catastrophe would be extraordinarily complicated and is extraordinarily complicated.

And the fact is that it does not come off without glitches. There are plenty of glitches, problems that need to be worked out. And they continue to be worked out.

CNN's Beth Nissen is in Jakarta.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BETH NISSEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The reports have been coming in for two days of full cargo planes headed to Banda Aceh turned away from the crowded airport there, of critical supplies, food, water purification equipment, tents, anti-malarial medication, sitting in huge piles on the airport tarmac while thousands of those in need suffer, hungry, homeless, increasingly sick.

DR. RICHARD BRENNAN, INTERNATIONAL RESCUE COMMITTEE: Logistics is a critical component of the relief effort right now and all that entails, transport, warehousing, communications, people with the right skills.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the hemorrhagic form of dengue fever.

NISSEN: Many established relief agencies, such as the International Rescue Committee, have advance teams in Aceh that are keeping key personnel in Jakarta, where they can better see the big picture of distribution problems.

JOHN RICKARD, INTERNATIONAL RESCUE COMMITTEE: For the moment we've got bottlenecks up here. We've got no access along here, or very limited.

NISSEN: Almost 10 days after the disaster, reports of the numbers of dead are more reliable than reports on the numbers of living and their locations.

RICKARD: What we're hearing is that there are significant numbers who may well have pushed up into the higher ground. But we're still getting reports of isolated pockets of people.

NISSEN: Unknown thousands of survivors are thought to have left devastated coastal areas for the Sumatran interior, where they are thought to be crammed together with little food or water, a perfect breeding ground for infectious diseases from measles to malaria to cholera.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And certainly tens to hundreds of thousands of people are at risk. So we need to get the aid to these people very soon indeed.

NISSEN: To do that, the score of major nongovernmental organizations and hundreds of smaller aid groups here are struggling to coordinate their efforts amongst themselves and with local government ministries and provincial community groups, asking what they need, listening to the answers, adjusting their plans.

BRENNAN: What proportion of the population get free health services?

Give them the resources and the support necessary for them to serve their communities best, because they're the guys that are going to be here for the long term.

NISSEN: Long term, meaning months, years. And it has only been days.

BRENNAN: It always takes days to weeks to gear up a large-scale relief effort. The scale of this relief effort is something that I haven't seen before. I mean, this is just enormous.

NISSEN: Beth Nissen, CNN, Jakarta.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BROWN: Just to give you one more idea of why this is so complicated to get aid here to Aceh, until nine days ago, when the tsunami hit, no Westerner had been allowed in this province for years. There has been this slow-simmering civil war. In some respects, it's still going on. Martial law was invoked in 2003. And Westerners were simply kept out of here. So they had no knowledge of the area they were about to try and save.

We'll take a break now. When we come back, we go back to New York, and Paula has the story of one New Yorker heading here in a desperate search for a loved one.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Many family members who immigrated to other countries are now on a very difficult emotional voyage. They're heading back to the land of their birth, to a country they haven't seen in years and probably won't even recognize. Their hope is to bring much-needed supplies and to find loved ones missing since disaster struck just nine days ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ABDUL ZAINUDDIN, FORMER RESIDENT OF INDONESIA: I don't know what to do when I get there. I just try to...

EVIE ZAINUDDIN, WIFE OF ABDUL: Stay together.

ZAINUDDIN: I try to call back to my country, to Indonesia, to my hometown, but no connection. Busy all the time.

PRESTINE ZAINUDDIN, DAUGHTER: It's sad because he's leaving us and who knows what might happen over there.

ASHLEY ZAINUDDIN, DAUGHTER: Yes, especially since the conditions there -- like, the situation is really bad. So I'm nervous that he's leaving.

E. ZAINUDDIN: He's going there for -- for a good thing. So, I keep praying for him and his family, for all of us.

ABDUL ZAINUDDIN: The house is destroyed. And my young sister's home is destroyed, my brother's home destroyed.

E. ZAINUDDIN: No, see that. I think it's in the -- here.

ABDUL ZAINUDDIN: This is me. And this is my sister, who pass away four day after the tsunami. And this is my young brother, is lost. We don't know, missing maybe.

I know that they need medicine, because in this situation, you know, everybody in the hospital maybe.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is that it?

ABDUL ZAINUDDIN: That's it. Twenty years, I never come back to my country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have a nice flight.

ABDUL ZAINUDDIN: OK. Thanks very much. Thank you very much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: A very painful journey in to what used to be home.

We leave you now, before we head to the break, with a live picture of some of the much-needed relief finally arriving in Banda Aceh, and particularly aid for the injured.

Aaron Brown will be back with one last live report in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: And as we leave you tonight, we go back to Aaron Brown, who is standing by in Banda Aceh.

I guess, Aaron, what I have been so moved by tonight are some of the stories you've shared with us, that out of some of this darkness has come lightness when it comes to the commitment volunteers have to making supplies and much-need relief get to some of the victims.

The one story you told about the investment banker basically going over there, using his bonus miles, with no official ties to any organizations, just to help out.

BROWN: It's a great -- yes, it's a great story. We'll -- hopefully, we'll run into him and we'll tell you more about it.

But we were sitting in the airport talking to him what now seems like days ago and was in fact just hours ago. And he said, the truth is, I couldn't find Indonesia on the map, but I knew I had to do something. And so he did. And in lots of places in Southeast Asia right now, there are lots of people who decided that, this time, they would do something. Maybe it doesn't change the world, but it changes the world a little bit. And it's a good thing to keep in mind in the midst of all of this that is so ugly.

Good to see you again. We'll be back tomorrow. Good night for all of us.

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