CBSN

Tsunami's Vast Ocean Of Death

AP Image Ingested via Automated Feed
AP
As the first U.S. military cargo plane arrived Friday with supplies in Bada Aceh, Indonesia, the country's health minister warned that the death toll in Indonesia alone could reach 100,000, as the scope of the devastation around Banda Aceh became apparent.

Planes dropped food into isolated towns, and boxes of aid piled up at the airports as global donations poured into the region. But other villagers complained of hunger, and hospitals ran low on medicine, highlighting the difficulties workers had in delivering supplies.

The death toll from the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and the tsunamis it spawned rose to more than 120,000 on Friday, including about 80,000 deaths in Indonesia, though Health Minister Siti Fadillah Supadi said the toll there could hit 100,000.

While residents in Banda Aceh, capital of Indonesia's hardest hit area, struggled to dispose of rotting corpses, officials found that nearby coastal villages had largely vanished under the sea's fury.

In the fishing village of Meulaboh, whole swaths of land were stripped bare. About a quarter of the town's 40,000 people were feared dead, but only a fraction of that number had been found.

"It is very difficult to predict the final toll," said Dody Budiatman, coordinator of relief efforts for the government in Jakarta. "We could search in small boats, but considering the numbers, it would be very difficult."

The U.S. death toll was officially raised from 12 to 14, with seven dead in Thailand and seven in Sri Lanka. Some 600 Americans who were listed as missing have been found, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said, but several thousand had not been located four days after the disaster struck.

With the fear of disease looming, medical workers scrambled to establish a foothold. Ade Bachtiar, a volunteer nurse from Jakarta, treated patients at an impromptu clinic set up in an abandoned souvenir shop.

"Yesterday, we could only stay open for about two hours due to the lack of electricity," he said. "Medicine is running out, especially antiseptics."

Aid officials estimated as much as 60 percent of Banda Aceh was destroyed in the quake and tsunami. "It will take at least two weeks for us to have the people and equipment we need here," said Aigor Lacomba, of a consortium of European aid groups.

That time line did not likely to sit well with refugees like Darmidi, who has lived on the streets of Banda Aceh amid dozens of stinking corpses since Sunday.

"How are we going to live?" the 43-year old fisherman asked, as his wife washed their 2-year-old son in a bucket. "We have nothing anymore."

Still, the $500 million international relief effort was making headway. The first of many expected U.S. C-130 cargo planes arrived at the regional airport, and Indonesia said supplies had arrived from 18 countries.

A Thai navy air base used by U.S. B-52 bombers during the Vietnam War was turned into the hub for the U.S. military-led relief effort for Sri Lanka and India, and a U.S. aircraft carrier battle group from Hong Kong is expected to reach the shores of Sumatra island as early as Saturday.

Singapore opened up the Southeast Asian city-state's naval and air bases so that donors could drop off supplies there.

Defense Minister Teo Chee Hean said airports in Sumatra were overstretched by the influx of aid, citing information he'd received from Indonesian Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono.

Sunday's earthquake spawned tsunamis that crashed into coastlines up to 3,000 miles away and killed people in 11 Asian and African nations. Sri Lanka reported 28,500 deaths and India more than 7,300. A total of more than 400 were killed in Malaysia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, the Maldives, Somalia, Tanzania and Kenya.

Thailand's government announced its toll had doubled to more than 4,500 people - including 2,230 foreigners - and hopes faded survivors would be found. Teams of forensic experts packed bodies in dry ice.

Half a billion dollars poured in from around the world to international relief organizations from individuals and governments pledged millions. Following comments from a U.N. relief official that wealthy nations can be "stingy," Australia upped its pledge by $20 million to $46.7 million, France nearly doubled its aid pledge for tsunami victims to $57 million, and Britain pledged 95 million. Also on board: Sweden, donating 75.5 million; Spain, with a $68 million package; and China, which will contribute $60 million.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that he was "satisfied" by the response.

Also, around the world, the Internet is making lending a hand to tsunami victims no harder than lifting a finger. CBS News Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports donations are pouring in twenty-four hours a day, outpacing public response to past disasters.

"The benefits of donating online are speed, direct access, cut down on administrative costs," one donor to tsunami victims, Frank Howard, told Attkisson.

Relatives in Thailand refused to give up hope for missing family members. Canadian tourist Dan Kwan was still hunting for his parents.

"At this point we hope against hope that they are still alive somewhere," he said, adding it was possible they were unconscious.

Rescue and identification teams from a dozen countries focused their efforts on a 20-mile stretch of beach in Phang Nga province, north of the internationally popular resort island of Phuket, where Interior Minister Bhokin Balakula said 3,500 bodies were recovered.

On the Thai resort island of Phuket, people scoured photos pinned to notice boards of the dead and missing in scenes reminiscent of the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in New York.

As many as five million people around the tsunami-struck Indian Ocean do not have access to the basics they need to stay alive, the U.N. World Health Organization said.

"Unless the necessary funds are urgently mobilized and coordinated in the field we could see as many fatalities from diseases as we have seen from the actual disaster itself," said Dr. David Nabarro, head of crisis operations at WHO.