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Strong Aftershock In Sumatra

Relief workers and tsunami survivors got another unwelcome reminder of the power of nature Thursday, as a 6.2-magnitude aftershock shook tsunami-stricken Banda Aceh, Indonesia early Thursday - panicking some residents and sending them running into the streets, fearing their homes might collapse.

The temblor sent grinding noises through the USS Abraham Lincoln, just offshore. GIs and others involved in the relief effort also felt an earlier, only slightly less powerful aftershock: 5.6-magnitude, on Wednesday night.

Dozens of trucks are rumbling out of the airport at Banda Aceh, loaded down with drinking water, instant noodles and other aid. American helicopters clattered overhead rushing food to devastated villages on Sumatra's west coast. Australian choppers were landing at the airport with scores of injured.

As international aid poured into Muslim Indonesia, some radical Islamic groups are sending men into Aceh - perhaps to stir up sentiment against U.S. and Australian troops there, a terrorism expert said.

"They appear to see their role not only as helping victims but as guarding against 'kafir' - infidel - influence," said Sidney Jones, Southeast Asia project director for the International Crisis Group.

In Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, world leaders wound up a conference on how to best help tsunami victims and build a tsunami warning system, issuing a declaration pledging that the U.N. will coordinate relief efforts.

"This unprecedented devastation needs unprecedented global response in assisting the national governments to cope with such disaster," the declaration said.

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan is urging nations to immediately come forward with the billions in aid they've promised, amid warnings that the 150,000 death toll may double because of outbreaks from unsanitary and crowded conditions in relief camps.

While nearly $4 billion has been pledged worldwide, the United Nations has warned that - as happened in previous disasters - some of the promises might not be honored.

As world leaders gathered in Jakarta, work began in Indonesia's hardest hit area - Sumatra - to build four camps for tsunami refugees.

There have been nearly 150,000 confirmed deaths from the 9.0 magnitude earthquake that rattled the ocean floor and sent massive waves crashing across beachfront communities from southern Asia to Africa. The toll is expected to climb even higher.

The toll of Americans presumed dead in the tsunami more than doubled as the U.S. government added 20 more people to the list of those known previously to have perished.

That brings to 36 the total number of Americans known to have died; nineteen of the additional victims reported Wednesday were in Thailand and the 20th in Sri Lanka, two of the hardest-hit countries, said a senior State Department official.

The four new camps being built around Banda Aceh, the main city in northern Sumatra, are sorely needed, as the existing ones are overcrowded and lack proper facilities.

"The camps that are here have been improvised by the people themselves," said Michael Elmquist, who heads the U.N. relief effort in Aceh. "The sanitation is totally insufficient."

Marine helicopters Wednesday buzzed into Medan, Indonesia, not to bring food in, but to take supplies away. Aid has flooded into Medan and the supplies were stacked in disorganized piles near a warehouse at the city's airport, an overwhelming amount beyond what was immediately needed in the area.

Desperate to get the supplies to hard-to-reach areas on Sumatra's west coast, CH-46 helicopters from the USS Bonhomme Richard launched an airlift Wednesday to bring the aid back to their ship.

Survivors expressed gratitude to the United States for the aid, saying it could help America's tattered image in the Muslim world.

"America is the police of the world. But at the same time, they are helping us," said Mohamed Bachid Madjid, standing on a bridge over the Aceh River, where two corpses floated amid the rubble. "And we are grateful."

Elmquist said the United Nations will provide tents and equipment for up to 500,000 people.

Across Europe Wednesday, politicians, workers and tourists observed a three-minute silent tribute for the victims across southern Asia. TV and radio stations interrupted programming and church bells rang.

In the Thai resort city Phuket, thousands of people in a soccer stadium lit candles and released paper lanterns that floated to the heavens as Christians, Muslims and Buddhists mourned victims of the tsunami

It was a traditional Buddhist "merit-making" service, in which people pray for peace for the spirits of the dead. But many of those kneeling in rows on the soccer field were people of other faiths.

"I came today so that those who have passed away may rest in peace," said Konee Bangtheh, 46, who teaches Islam in Phuket. "We are asking for a blessing from Allah."

The ceremony began at dusk, with the thousands in white — the traditional color of mourning. As darkness fell, mourners passed a flame from candle to candle.

Within minutes, the stadium glowed with a soft yellow light. Paper lanterns, powered by hot air, were then released into the sky - another ritual meant to lift the spirits of the dead. The lanterns rose, illuminating the darkness, the orange-robed monks chanted and the mourners wept.

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