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Aid workers move through devastated regions

31 December 2004

Aid workers move through devastated regions to bring help

Burmese doctors have been re-located from their HIV/AIDS work on the Thai/Myanmar border to help tend the tsunami victims in Phuket, Thailand.

World Vision is working with local hospitals in Phuket, Ranong and Phangnga and the Ministry of Public Health through mobile clinics, to treat the injured in the ravaged communities. The medical team includes Thai and Burmese doctors who are being transported to the affected areas to provide emergency medical assistance. The Burmese doctors were working on World Vision's special HIV/AIDS project along the Thai-Myanmar border. Survival kits are being distributed in Phuket.

Staff believe 50% of the deaths in the region are children.

As relief efforts move into the fifth day, World Vision NZ reports that donations received from the NZ public have topped $250,000.

Weary communications people from the affected countries report in on the conditions and the relief effort:

Indonesia: Assessing the situation in Aceh is difficult because of the conflict with insurgent groups. Enda Balina of World Vision says there is a growing need for food and medical care, and communication lines, electricity and transportation remain unrestored in many parts of the affected areas. It is very hard to access some of the remote areas, thus information is slow and difficult [to obtain].

Sri Lanka: 25,000 are now believed killed, and evacuation camps are packed with survivors who have fled their coastal villages. The people are still traumatised as World Vision communicator, Timothy Edward reports:

A nine-year-old child sat on the debris of his house with a blank look in his face. When inquired he blurts out crying, "I have lost all my school books".

While trying to comfort him, the WV team heard people screaming, "The sea is rising, the sea is rising!" What followed was unbelievable. A massive stampede - screaming children and women, young and old alike, all running in an attempt to get away from the costal areas with terror written on their faces...A short-while later, we learned that this stampede along the coastal belt of Moratuwa was spurred by a rumour. Thousands of faces are imprinted with signs of fear; the same faces of people who bore the brunt of the killer waves a few days before.

"It took only a few minutes for the tsunami disaster to cause enormous, unimaginable damage, but it will certainly take years to heal the devastation and terror it unfolded along the coastal belt of Sri Lanka," says Mr Edward, adding there is nothing left of the infrastructure, and only limited mobile phone contact.

India: Relief packs are being distributed to 35,000 families in the states of Tamilnadu and Andrha Pradesh. In the worst-hit district of Nagapatinam, 1,300 families were provided medical assistance by a team of nine doctors coordinated by World Vision with the help of a Christian Hospital. World Vision also provided 1,000 families with cooked food.

Reporting from Kallur village, World Vision Relief team leader Reena Samuel said, "The roads to the villages are piled with layers of debris. It will take months if not years for people to recover."

Communications staff are travelling to affected areas and reporting in with stories tragic and poignant, such as Laxman.

Laxman, the teashop keeper still prepares tea for his wife Kasturi, even though she almost certainly drowned in the 20-feet tall tidal waves that engulfed their house and tossed Kasturi into the sea.

Kasturi was working in their teashop in Thidirnagar, in Chennai, India, with her husband when the waves came. Laxman had to choose between saving his wife or his daughter, Manju.

"The waves were too strong and too fast," recalls Laxman. "I could carry my daughter to safety but could not save my wife."

His daughter leans toward him whispering, "Tell them how my mother cried as the waters separated her from us."

World Vision is accepting donations on 0800 80 2000 or through the website: www.worldvision.org.nz

ENDS

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