Indonesia toll passes 94,000
Death toll tops 155,000; thousands still missing
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(CNN) -- Hopes of finding the thousands still missing from last week's massive earthquake and deadly tsunami glimmers weakly as desperately needed aid finally reached areas that had been cut off by the devastation.
The death toll from Malaysia to East Africa stands at more than 155,000, after Indonesia's toll was raised by 14,000 to more than 94,000 early Monday by the country's health ministry.
Tens of thousands are still missing -- including many tourists whose vacations took an unexpected turn early on the morning of December 26.
And the area keeps shaking.
Dozens of aftershocks have followed the 9.0 magnitude earthquake -- the strongest on the planet since 1964 -- including more than 15 with a magnitude of 5.0 or higher since Friday morning.
The largest number of deaths in Indonesia, closest to the epicenter of the initial earthquake, were in its remote Aceh province -- home to a long-standing armed separatist movement that aid workers worry might complicate providing relief to victims.
But CNN's Mike Chinoy reports that the recovery effort in Aceh, after a slow start, is becoming more organized, with more armed forces and aid workers making their way to the capital, Banda Aceh, and then into the province's more remote areas.
Locals, too, are becoming more organized, Chinoy said, particularly in recovering bodies still buried beneath tonness of rubble.
One resident told Chinoy it could take up to four months to find all those killed in Banda Aceh.
It may be worse in the rest of the province.
Nothing remained of the bridge connecting Banda Aceh and the west coast -- just 160 kilometers (100 miles) from the epicenter -- except the low pillars that once held the roadway.
An Indonesian army garrison at the bridge was devastated -- of the 270 soldiers and their families stationed there, only 12 people survivied.
Where there were survivors, they swarmed military helicopters -- the only transportation that could reach most of the areas -- bringing packages of food, water and medical supplies.
Authorities set up a staging ground at the Banda Aceh airport where Australian C-130s and Indonesian military planes were bringing in supplies. U.S. helicopters from the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln picked up the packages from there.
The United States also sent helicopters to Sri Lanka, where more than 46,000 people are dead and more than 24,000 others are are missing.
India's navy launched its largest relief operation, part of a $25 million effort to help Sri Lanka.
Eleven Indian ships were dispatched to the island nation and military helicopters also ferried in relief supplies.
Already, India has delivered six tonnes of supplies to the tsunami-hit areas and plans to ship in 20 tonnes more.
In addition to relief supplies, India is sending engineers and skilled workers to help rebuild Sri Lanka's devastated economy.
India itself was hit hard by the tsunami, with at least 9,500 people dead, most on its east coast and in the remote Andaman and Nicobar Islands, closer to Thailand and Indonesia than their mother country.
Madhusree Mukerjee, an Indonesian journalist and expert on the indigenous peoples of the islands, said the Andamans -- the northernmost of the islands -- "suffered property damage but little loss of life."
"The real devastation is in the Nicobar Islands," she told CNN.
Indian officials report more than 5,400 people missing on the islands.
Mukerjee said the population of the Nicobar Islands is about 45,000 and the tsunamis "washed over many of the Nicobar Islands many times."
In one, Car Nicobar, which is also home to an Indian Air Force base, "we have been told all 15 villages have been washed out," she said.
Mukerjee said the Indian government -- which declined international aid, saying it could handle the emergency itself -- was doing as good a job as could be expected.
But she said Andaman and Nicobar could have benefited from assistance from the much closer Thailand, which also declined international financial aid.
Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra told CNN that his country did not need the financial aid but was appreciative of expertise and equipment.
Shinawatra said he was pleased to see cooperation between the private and public sectors -- and how fast the area "came back to normal activity."
Owners of hotels that survived the tsunami in Phuket, for example, are encouraging vacationers to return -- and some are. The owners say the return of the tourists is essential to their survival.
Some 70 percent of the hotels' reservations have cancelled, officials said.
But CNN's Aneesh Raman said the juxtaposition of tourists on the beach where thousands died a week ago was odd, as was watching relatively normal beach activities while knowing hundreds of thousands elsewhere were in desperate need of aid.
Jan Egeland, the U.N.'s emergency relief coordinator, said 1.8 million people needed food assistance across the affected area, adding that the number might rise further.
The World Health Program, he said, had estimated it would take it three days to set up a food distribution program to reach all those who needed it in Sri Lanka and longer still in Indonesia.
"However, air drops are being undertaken," Egeland said Sunday.
"It is the first, crude way to get food there. It is not, however, a good way to get water and medicine distributed."
Egeland said U.N. efforts were focused on Sri Lanka, Indonesia, the Maldives and Somalia, and that other governments had said they were able to handle the disaster themselves.
The effort is proceeding under rising fears of disease -- and the possibility of thousands more deaths.
"I am very worried about it," Egeland told CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer."
"Already the incidence of diarhea is up among children."
So far, Egeland said, more than $2 billion has been pledged toward the emergency relief effort, an amount Egeland said was larger than what was pledged for all other humanitarian emergencies combined in 2004.
But it still fell short of the $3.3 billion the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency provided Florida after four hurricanes struck the state last year.
Japan is the largest contributor, pledging $500 million; the United States was second, with $350 million committed. (Contributions by country)
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who has said that figure might not be "the end number," left Sunday to visit the region, accompanied by U.S. President George W. Bush's brother, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and other U.S. officials. (Full story)
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan will also visit affected areas after the conference, but Egeland said his itinerary, other than Aceh on January 7, was incomplete. (Full story)
As relief supplies began reaching survivors, a World Health Organization official said the primary concern now was to provide clean water and proper sanitation.
"Given the very difficult conditions in which people are now living, it seems very, very likely that we're going to get some increases in disease and therefore death," said Dr. David Nabarro, executive director of Sustainable Development and Healthy Environments for the WHO.
CNN's Mike Chinoy in Banda Aceh, Indonesia; Atika Shubert in Medan, Indonesia; Satinder Bindra in Galle, Sri Lanka and Aneesh Raman in Phuket, Thailand, contributed to this report.