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Striking Tales Of Survival

Remarkable stories of survival emerged Monday even as authorities all but gave up hope of finding anyone else alive after Asia's killer earthquake and tsunamis. The number of confirmed dead in Indonesia and Sri Lanka surged again, pushing the total close to the expected toll of more than 150,000.

U.S. troops delivering the first aid to a village along the devastated western coast of Sumatra island on Monday rescued about 50 survivors — including many so weak they couldn't walk or talk — delivering them by Navy helicopter to a hospital in Banda Aceh.

In Malaysia, a 23-year-old Indonesian woman who clung to a sago tree for five days after the tsunami was delivered to a hospital by a tuna ship that picked her up last week, an industry official said.


Dan Rather reports from Asia on the relief effort to those affected by the Dec. 26 tsunami. Rather tours the Indonesian town of Banda Aceh and speaks to relief workers aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln. 60 Minutes, Wed. at 8 p.m. ET/PT.
On Sunday, Indonesian fisherman Tengku Sofyan was found, wasted by dehydration and hunger, underneath the wreckage of his boat, which was thrown ashore and upturned over him in the Dec. 26 tsunami on Sumatra.

"He's in extremely fragile condition, especially mentally," said Dr. Irwan Azwar, who treated Sofyan.

And four Indonesian fishermen were found alive on Saturday in the Andaman Sea, six days after their boat was pushed out to sea by the tsunami, officials said Monday.

Despite the isolated stories of hope, the overall situation was bleak.

Indonesia added another 14,000 people to its official death count Monday, while Sri Lanka upped its toll by more than 1,400 to pass the grim mark of 30,000. Officials in Sri Lanka said another 5,000 deaths could be expected.

India and Thailand said they were preparing to give up on some 10,000 still unaccounted for. U.N. officials say at least 150,000 dead can be expected.

The tsunami struck at least a dozen nations on the edge of the Indian Ocean with little advance notice, and Indonesia announced plans Monday to work with its Asian neighbors to establish a natural disaster warning system.

Plans for such as system were expected to be the focus, along with aid pledges, of an international conference in the Indonesian capital later this week attended by Asian leaders, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and other officials.

President Bush on Monday tapped two former presidents — his father, President George H.W. Bush, and his predecessor, President Bill Clinton — to lead a nationwide fund-raising campaign to help victims of the Asian tsunamis.

The two men are to lead an effort to encourage the American people and American businesses to support, through private contributions, non-governmental and international organizations relief and reconstruction to areas devastated by the tsunamis, Mr. Bush said.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon has decided to send the USNS Mercy, a 1,000-bed hospital ship based at San Diego, to join the tsunami relief effort, two officials said Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity. The ship, currently at sea for a previously scheduled test, is capable of receiving patients by helicopter or by ship, either at anchor or while underway.

U.S. choppers that arrived in Indonesia on Saturday have become just as valuable as the medicine and food they're carrying, reports CBS News Correspondent Lee Cowan. With roads blocked by gruesome debris - and bridges washed out - many of Indonesia's hard-hit remote coastal villages had become islands themselves.

Aid workers, meanwhile, were trying to help the millions of displaced people put their towns and villages back together.

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."

Powell and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's brother, are to travel to disaster areas in Thailand and Indonesia on their way to the Jakarta conference.

International donors have so far pledged about $2 billion. The destruction of roads, ports and airfields has hampered relief efforts, nevertheless.

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 Andamans, 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, an official from international aid agency Oxfam. India was "accelerating the miseries of the poor people," he said.

In Sri Lanka, 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.

In New York, U.N. humanitarian chief Jan Egeland said 1.8 million people in tsunami-hit countries would need food aid and that figure could rise. It would take about three days to get food to 700,000 people in Sri Lanka but much longer to reach the 1 million hungry people in Indonesia, he said.

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