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ASIAN TSUNAMI DISASTER UPDATE . . .
NEARLY 5 MILLION PEOPLE WITHOUT BASIC SURVIVAL NEEDS

Background:

At least 117,000 people were killed in south Asia and Africa by Sunday's massive earthquake and tsunami waves, according to official figures.

The latest:

Up to 5 million people around the tsunami-struck Indian Ocean region do not have access to the basics they need to stay alive: clean water, shelter, food, sanitation and health care.

Fourteen Americans have perished, the U.S. State Department said, and 3,000 others are missing.

Pilots dropped food to remote Indonesian villages still unreachable by rescue workers. A false alarm that new killer waves were about to hit sparked panic in India, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Thursday that governments have pledged $500 million in aid to disaster victims. Pledges of U.S. assistance remained at $35 million, but parallel Pentagon spending was spiraling upward and could not be calculated quickly. The relief included the arrival of four C-130 cargo planes in Thailand with food, water and sheltering material and a large supply of rice; and other food and assistance were due to arrive in Indonesia by New Year's Eve, a senior U.S. official said.

American planes have delivered 1,400 body bags to the southern Thai islands, while Australian and New Zealand military cargo planes have flown supplies and water purification plants into Indonesia. ~
What to watch for:

Indonesia, with around 80,000 dead, was the worst hit, followed by Sri Lanka, India and Thailand. The total across 12 nations in south Asia and East Africa was likely to rise, with thousands still missing and fears that disease could bring a new wave of deaths.

The next few days will be critical in controlling any outbreak of waterborne diseases.

The USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group, which was in Hong Kong, has been diverted to the Gulf of Thailand for the humanitarian relief operations. Five ships from the group may be deployed off Sumatra, the worst hit area.

Twelve million tourists visited Thailand this year, many to southern beaches to soak up the sun, dive on spectacular coral reefs and indulge in a languid, sometimes lascivious, lifestyle. Now, they're scurrying away in droves, reeling from the epic disaster that left five-star resorts and $3-a-night bungalows in ruins and polluted the air with the smell of rotting corpses.

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