U.N.: Tsunami toll approaches 150,000
U.S. raises pledge to $350 million
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BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (CNN) -- Aid has begun to reach tsunami victims in remote areas of Indonesia, as the U.N.'s emergency relief coordinator says the death toll is approaching 150,000.
Jan Engeland said he expects the number of dead in Indonesia alone to reach 100,000, based on estimates from U.N. workers in the field.
A total of 138,631 people have been confirmed dead following the quake and resulting Indian Ocean tsunamis.
"We will never have an exact figure because of all the nameless fishermen who are gone," Egeland said.
He predicted that 5 million people ultimately will be affected by the disaster, including 1 million homeless.
Aid workers were welcomed as heroes in Indonesia -- where almost 80,000 have been confirmed dead -- as they delivered supplies to residents in Aceh province.
It was the first sign that the world had not forgotten about them, said Sabine Rens of Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), which made it to two coastal areas Friday.
"We just touched down, got out of the helicopter, and people started running toward us, shaking our hands, saying, 'Oh, my God,' " Rens said. "This woman fell into my arms and started crying."
Obstacles -- including a lack of coordination, fuel shortages, rough weather, airport logjams and impassable roads -- have prevented the distribution of aid to some of the most devastated areas in the 11 Asian and African nations affected by a magnitude 9 earthquake and resulting tsunamis.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan met Friday with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to discuss several issues, including U.S. assistance to the region.
The United States raised its contribution Friday from $35 million to $350 million, bringing total pledges from countries and the World Bank to more than $1.1 billion. (Full story)
President Bush said in a press release the United States had created a support center in Thailand and that 20 aircraft were dispatched to "assess the disaster and deliver relief supplies."
Powell and Bush's brother Jeb, governor of Florida, will lead a U.S. mission to the region Sunday. (Full story)
Officials said Friday that logjams of supplies at Asian airports and a lack of fuel threaten to hinder the aid effort. (Full story)
In areas near Medan, Indonesia, soldiers distributed necessities, but dwindling fuel supplies meant they could not reach some areas.
The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said Friday it would begin an emergency airlift on Sunday to Indonesia that should get 400 tons of supplies to 100,000 people in Aceh province.
"We will be immediately providing shelter material for about one-fifth of the estimated affected population, but this is just the start of our operation," High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers said in a press release.
Scenes of devastation
As workers and news crews arrived in washed out flattened areas -- villages and towns that just a week ago were filled with people and homes -- they saw striking signs of the will to survive.
People, some barely clothed, picked through rubble for food and supplies.
Elsewhere, the death toll in Sri Lanka is above 43,000. India and Thailand account for thousands more deaths.
In Sri Lanka, more than two decades of civil war have already ravaged large parts of the country. The tsunami washed up many land mines, leaving them scattered on the ground.
The Tamil Tiger rebels have established a virtual clampdown the northern and eastern regions of the country, hampering aid distribution.
Residents have been warned to stick to only the few major roads that leaders are trying to secure. No one can enter without going through rebel checkpoints.
In southern parts of Sri Lanka controlled by the government, more than 50 aid flights have arrived.
Sri Lankan officials have said they are coordinating with Tamil Tigers to get supplies to rebel-controlled areas, but some rebel leaders have accused the government of neglect.
Other nations and international aid groups want to send another 100 flights full of supplies, but the government has said it doesn't have the capacity for that many planes.
Tales of survival
Thousands of people in the country are living in Buddhist temples and churches. They share remarkable stories of survival.
One man said when the waves hit he took shelter in a tree, clinging to branches for days as the water remained high. He eventually fell down, fracturing a leg.
He counts himself among the lucky ones; he was reunited with his family.
Others in the shelters recounted having been in their boats in the harbor when the tsunami struck, saying they were tossed around like toys, but miraculously did not drown.
Chip Lyons with UNICEF said his organization's teams in the region still "have to get a handle" on the survival needs.
They have begun distributing tablets that mix with water and help cure diarrhea -- which he called the number one cause of preventable death among children after such disasters.
Aid groups will work to reconnect young people with extended family members or others who can take care of them, and will bring them together with other children.
Lyons said that at this time even a simple game of kickball and makeshift classrooms could help establish a semblance of normalcy.
Amid the devastation, Friday brought a glimmer of hope. In some places, as the new year arrived, people broke into celebrations. In Sri Lanka, they violated a national day of mourning that banned such events.
Thoughts for tsunami victims tempered New Year's Eve festivities. Several major cities canceled parties, and Australia held a minute of silence. (Full story)
CNN's Mike Chinoy in Banda Aceh, Indonesia; Atika Shubert in Medan, Indonesia; Hugh Rimington in Dodangoda, Sri Lanka; and Satinder Bindra in Galle, Sri Lanka, contributed to this report.