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Tsunami Relief Bottlenecked

Landing Signals Enlisted directs an SH-60B Seahawk assigned to the "Saberhawks" of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Light Squadron Four Seven to land on the flight deck of USS Abraham Lincoln following a trip to Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia for disaster relief missions, transporting supplies and supporting humanitarian airlifts
AP Photo
Even as the death toll from the tsunami that devoured Asian shorelines neared 150,000 and officials all but gave up hope in the search for survivors, discovery of a few more living became a testament to the human body's resilience. Dozens of desperate, weakened Indonesians were rescued from coastal villages more than a week after the giant tsunami struck, many too weak to move or speak.

At the same time, logistical problems hampered efforts to deliver aid to the millions of survivors.

The tiny, single-runway airport in Banda Aceh handled about three flights a day before the disaster. Now, as CBS News Correspondent Lee Cowan reports, it's swamped with round-the-clock traffic. Sea Hawk helicopters from the USS Lincoln carry most of the load, flying in as many as 30 missions a day. A total of 50 tons of supplies has reached the area.

Now what Cowan calls "the most important landing strip in the world," Banda Aceh's airport was closed for days by Indonesia's army, out of fear separatists might exploit the disaster.

Now open,

how long the relief effort would continue.

"Your guess is as good as mine," Adams said. "With this type of total devastation, two weeks, two months, or a couple of years, you never know."

In other forms of transportation and other locations, too, the amount of aid and staff arriving in the vast region is causing bottlenecks, said Jamie McGoldrick, an official of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

"I think that it could be simply down to the fact there's just too many people arriving in these places," McGoldrick said.

As CBS News Correspondent Allen Pizzey reports, Sri Lanka expected to have at least one railway line working carrying supplies by today, but with the way existing tracks have been twisted by the violent tsunami, some say it would be cheaper to build a new railway.

Although the United States was not among the first at the scene after last week's natural disaster, it is now spearheading the international relief effort.

U.S. helicopters
rescued 60 desperate and weak tsunami survivors
, including children, elderly and two pregnant women on Monday. Doctors said they suffered from pneumonia, broken bones, infected wounds and tetanus. Many appeared deeply traumatized. At least 25 were in critical condition.

The Americans flew along a 120-mile stretch of Sumatra's ravaged coastline, further revealing the extent of the destruction.

"In my 17 years of service, I have never seen such devastation and I hope that I'll never see such again in my life," said Senior Chief Jesse Cash, of Albuquerque, N.M., who has served in Somalia and Liberia.

Leaders from stricken nations and world donors will meet in Indonesia later this week to try to iron out problems in coordinating an unprecedented $2 billion global relief operation. They will also discuss an ambitious plan to set up an Indian Ocean tsunami warning system.

But as international relief operations picked up steam, the United Nations warned that the area hardest hit by the Dec. 26 earthquake and walls of water — the western coast of Indonesia's Sumatra island — had not yet been reached and that the number of dead could increase by the tens of thousands.

The death toll has leapt by the tens of thousands on an almost daily basis.

Jan Egeland, the U.N. humanitarian chief, said it would keep climbing, especially on Sumatra where the number of dead has already reached more than 90,000. Aid workers originally thought the island's northern province, Aceh, took the brunt of the temblor and tsunami, but now believe the low-lying western coastline was hardest hit.

"Many, many of these villages are gone. There is no trace of them. They had hardly roads before. Now they have nothing. The death toll will grow exponentially on the western coast of Sumatra. What will be final toll we will never know, but we may be talking of tens of thousands of further deaths in this area," Egeland said

Asian leaders including Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi — whose nation's $500 million pledge makes it the biggest contributor so far — are to attend the summit, along with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, World Bank President James Wolfensohn, and top European Union officials.

The potential for private fundraising got a boost in the United States today as Mr. Bush nominated President Clinton and George H. W. Bush to head up contribution collection efforts. CBS News Correspondent

to get their takes on relieving tsunami survivors.

Mr. Clinton told Roberts: "…we ought to be doing it because we want more people to live full lives. We want more people to put their lives back together."