01/01/2005, 00.00
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Five years and three billion dollars to rebuild tsunami-ravaged Aceh

by Mathias Hariyadi
Jakarta will host an international relief summit on January 6 to consolidate joint commitment and plan reconstruction and rehabilitation.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – After meeting Indonesia's Economy Minister Aburizal 'Ical' Bakrie, Vice-President Jusuf Kalla said that rebuilding Aceh and surrounding areas will take at least five years and will cost some RIN 7.5 quintillion (about US$ 3.3 billion).

According to Health Ministry spokeswoman Mariani Reksoprojo, the death toll should reach 110,000 (it was 80,000 yesterday), but the Ministry won't release any further figures until a final count is reached.

Meantime, reconstruction in Aceh has already started thanks to foreign aid. Food, drinking water, clothes and transportation are the immediate priorities. For this to happen, "the bureaucratic machinery must be jump-started", said Vice-President Kalla.

In a press conference, Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda said that Jakarta will host an international relief summit. "The meeting," Mr Wirajuda said, "is aimed at consolidating joint commitment for emergency assistance and future rehabilitation and reconstruction of the affected countries."

The ten members of the Association of South-East Asian nations or ASEAN—Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam—as well as China, Japan, South Korea, India, Sri Lanka, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and representatives of the United Nations, the World Bank, the World Health Organisation and the European Union should take part in the summit.

In his New Year's address to the nation, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said that 2005 will be the "Year of solidarity and compassion". He urged all Indonesians to send aid to the tsunami-stricken areas and not abandon the peoples of Aceh and North Sumatra to their "despair and suffering" because "they are our brothers." He added that reconstruction and rehabilitation "would be his priority".

This morning President Susilo and some cabinet ministers flew to Aceh, whilst this afternoon he was scheduled to visit Meulaboh, a virtual ghost town 80 per cent flattened.

In Banda Aceh, there are the first signs that life is getting back to normal. Power and phone lines are working again and the traditional Lambaro market is crowded with customers.

Oil supplied by state-owned Pertamina has enabled public transit to start again, but a late morning quake (11:30 am local time) sent people running for higher ground in a panic.

Yesterday, President Susilo authorised the opening of Indonesia's airspace in the affected regions to foreign aid, whilst Singapore is making its air and naval bases available to countries sending aid to Indonesia.

US and Australian navy ships are sailing towards the tsunami-stricken areas bringing in volunteer personnel and aid workers for the reconstruction effort. 

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See also
Indonesia's airspace now open to foreign relief operations
Tsunami: Reconstruction in Aceh and Nias Island blocked by corruption
Tensions between Seoul and Pyongyang rise as Cold War fears cast a shadow over Korea
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