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    » 01/02/2005, 00.00

    INDONESIA

    Tsunami brings US and Indonesia closer



    US marines and choppers arrive in the world's largest Muslim country with aid for tsunami survivors.

    Jakarta (AsiaNews) – The tsunami tragedy is reducing the political divide and distrust between the US and Indonesia. US Secretary of State Colin Powell and Florida Governor Jeff Bush, brother of the current US president, are travelling to Indonesia to discuss the upcoming international relief summit scheduled for January 6 in Jakarta. The Jakarta meeting should decide how to allocate the US$ 2 billion aid money raised from donor countries. Japan has already pledged US$ 500 million; the US, 350. The UK said it would send £ 50 million (US$ 96 million).

    The summit will see 23 political leaders and senior officials of international organisations meet. They will represent ASEAN's ten member countries, China, Japan, South Korea, India, Sri Lanka, Australia, New Zealand and the US, as well as the World Bank, the World Health Organisation and the European Union.

    Japan has already announced that a second summit will take place under UN auspices on January 18 in Kobe.

    Meanwhile, USS aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln dropped anchor in Mahalayati seaport in Sabang, Weh Island (in the western-most part of the country). Many of its Blackhawk and Sea King choppers are flying to the city of Banda Ache in northern Sumatra bringing food and medicines.

    Some 80 US military trucks with Indonesian soldiers are bringing additional medical supplies to the tsunami-ravaged city of Meulaboh, where the local Police chief reports that 90 per cent of the city's population of 40,000 are either dead or missing.

    US intervention in Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim country, is extraordinary since under other circumstances local Islamist militants would not have allowed Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to accept US help.

    "We are deeply touched by what we have seen in the TV and now we are facing the touching realities," said Major Michael Gallagher.

    Health conditions are critical in tsunami-stricken areas and there is a risk of cholera, dysentery and malaria

    "The government has been too slow in handling distribution of aid," said Riswan Ali, refugee coordinator in the northern city of Bireun. "We need water and our children are sick. They need food and medicine, please help us! We will die here."

    In Sumatra 50 international medical teams are already working to help the wounded and the homeless.

    A few rays of hope that life is getting back to normal in Aceh—local daily Serambi is back on newsstands despite losing dozens of reporters.

    The official death toll for the whole of Indonesia stands at more than 80,000, but Health Minister Siti Fadillah Supadi said it could reach 100,000.

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    See also

    05/01/2005 INDONESIA
    Rescue workers discriminate against ethnic Chinese tsunami victims


    03/01/2005 INDONESIA
    Jakarta blocks tsunami orphan adoptions
    As the death toll reaches 95,000, a series of alphanumeric messages sent via mobile phones have been urging people to "adopt orphans".

    02/01/2005 INDONESIA
    Tsunami orphans available for the right price


    04/01/2005 INDONESIA
    At least 20 tsunami orphans victim of child trafficking
    Government adopts strict rules about child foster care and adoption.

    05/01/2005 INDONESIA
    Famine haunts the population of Simeuleu Island
    The island lacks food, drinking water and medicines. In Banda Aceh makeshift shelters are being built out of tsunami rubble.



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