New video footage from the Indonesian town of Banda Aceh – one of the areas worst hit by the tsunami – shows a torrent of waist-high brown water where there was once a main road.
Moving swiftly, the tidal surge swept cars, trees and debris through the centre of the capital of the Aceh region – close to the quake’s epicentre. The overall death toll now stands at about 156,000, with almost all of Indonesia’s 104,000 casualties recorded in Aceh alone. Gunfire erupted briefly today in Banda Aceh, scene of a long-running conflict between separtists and the Indonesian military. Both sides made conciliatory gestures immediately after the December 26 disaster but have since accused one another of starting several clashes. In Sri Lanka, too, an armed rebellion is casting a shadow over relief efforts with the government blocking a visit by the UN Secretary General to rebel-held areas. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people in Aceh province are now living in refugee camps. But with up to 40 people crammed into each tent, conditions are hard and unhealthy. Survivors queue up to get what aid is trickling in, jostling for anything they think may help them rebuild their lives. And for the orphaned children, a new fear. Scattered reports of child abductions and trafficking have led counsellors to try and educate the traumatised youngsters not to be fooled by strangers who tell them they can lead them to their parents.