There were a few rays of hope Monday, even as the death toll in the eleven tsunami-stricken nations rose to over 150,000.
According to the Indian Army, four tsunami survivors have been found alive - on a remote Indian Ocean island.
The four, says Indonesian army commander Salil Mehta, were in a motor boat when the 9-Richter scale quake struck Dec. 26, causing the tsunami.
Mehta says the boat drifted for miles and finally reached the remote island where they have now been found.
According to the independent Indian television station Aaj Tak, the four men could barely speak and would only say "Indonesia" when asked their names.
Indonesia now has some additional manpower and equipment to cope with its relief effort, as the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln weighed anchor at Banda Aceh on Saturday. Helicopters from the carrier are making dozens of trips per day, ferrying supplies to remote areas and in some cases, transporting patients.
The extent of the damage became eerily clear as U.S. helicopters carrying aid donated by Singapore flew low over what appeared to be a fishing flotilla off the coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
Some boats were clearly damaged, while others appeared to have emerged from the disaster unscathed. But there was no sign of life at all.
In the low-lying Maldives islands south of India, the desolate scene reminded U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Max Andrews of war-torn cities in Iraq.
"I was in Fallujah last summer and saw the devastation and damage there. But that was surgical and aimed at specific targets," Andrews - part of a U.S. four-member military-civilian team sent to assess aid needs - said Sunday. "Here it's total. Everything is gone."
To get a firsthand look at the devastation, a U.S. delegation including Secretary of State Colin Powell and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is to arrive Monday on the first stop of a trip through the tsunami-devastated regions of Thailand, Indonesia and possibly Sri Lanka.
U.N. humanitarian chief Jan Egeland said 1.8 million people in tsunami-hit countries will need food aid and that figure could rise. He estimates that it will take about three days to get food to 700,000 people in Sri Lanka and even longer to reach the 1 million hungry people in Indonesia.
He warns there are still difficulties in reaching survivors in Sumatra's Aceh province.
As the relief efforts drove deeper into the sprawling disaster zone, American pilots had some of the first glimpses of wrecked Sumatran coastal villages such as Kuede Teunom, where survivors in tattered clothing grabbed at bottles of water dropped from helicopters.
With roads blocked by gruesome debris - and bridges washed out - many of Indonesia's island villages had become islands themselves - and choppers have become just as valuable as the medicine and food they're carrying, reports CBS News Correspondent Lee Cowen.
The military helicopters "are worth their weight in gold for us," said Egeland, who wasin their response to the disaster.
Sunday, Indonesia added another 14,000 people to its known death toll, as the governments in Sri Lanka, India and Thailand said they are preparing to give up on more than 15,000 people who are still unaccounted for.
The Dec. 26 tsunami struck the region with little advance notice, and Indonesia announced plans Monday to work with its Asian neighbors to establish a system to warn coastal communities before potentially deadly waves hit.
Aid workers are trying to help the millions of displaced people put their towns and villages back together.
International donors, meeting this week in Indonesia, have so far pledged about US$2 billion, but the destruction of roads, ports and airfields has hampered relief efforts.
Throughout the affected areas, lists of missing increasingly looked like little more than wishful thinking, as officials speeded up the burial of decomposing corpses - many still unidentified - that were piling up in the intense tropical heat.
The challenge of cataloguing the dead was highlighted in Thailand Monday when forensic experts said they were exhuming some 300 tsunami victims - all of them Asian - after discovering they had been mislabeled in the rush to bury bodies in the days following the disaster.
In India, international aid groups expressed anger at a government policy barring them access to the badly hit Andaman and Nicobar islands, where about 4,000 people are missing and feared dead.
The policy stems from the presence of a sensitive military air base in the atolls as well as a desire to protect indigenous tribes there.
"This closed-door approach ... is delaying relief efforts," said Shaheen Nilofer, program manager for Eastern India for international aid agency Oxfam. "Valuable time has been lost because of this delay. (India is) accelerating the miseries of the poor people."
As the relief effort continued to build, affected nations were working to ensure that nothing on the scale of last week's disaster would happen again.
Most of the hardest-hit countries, including Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka had no system in place to warn of the impending disaster as is common in the Pacific Ocean.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono gave few details about which countries would be involved in an early warning system or how his impoverished nation would fund it, but regional leaders were expected to endorse the idea during a donors' conference Thursday in Jakarta.
In Sri Lanka, where the destruction was second only to Indonesia, officials added 1,026 more to the death toll and said 5,540 people still missing were likely to be declared dead, bringing the figure there to 35,000.
Casualty figures were still being reported from affected areas along the country's north and south coasts. Nearly 17,000 were injured and almost 1 million people were displaced and living in temporary camps at schools and religious places.
In India, authorities expected the toll to exceed 15,000. More than 5,000 others were dead along Thailand's resort coast, with thousands more missing, and 500 were dead in seven other nations in Asia and Africa.