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ASIAN TSUNAMI DISASTER UPDATE . . .
U.S. AID INCREASED TO $350 MILLION; MORE PLEDGED

Background:

At least 121,562 people were killed in south Asia by Sunday's massive earthquake and tsunami waves, according to official figures.

The latest:

The United States upped its tsunami relief aid tenfold to $350 million Friday as the world's ships and planes converged on devastated shores. France has promised $57 million, Britain $95 million and Sweden $75.5 million.

Forensic teams in Thailand packed bodies in dry ice as the government announced its death toll had doubled to more than 4,500 people, almost half of them vacationing foreigners. In Sri Lanka, where more than 4,000 people were unaccounted for, TV channels devoted 10 minutes of every hour to reading the names and details of the missing.

In the hardest-hit country, Indonesia, the official death toll stood at about 80,000, but officials acknowledged the final number could go well over 100,000 because the towering tsunami waves swept entire villages out to sea.

Thai authorities said more than 2,230 foreigners from 36 nations were confirmed dead from Thailand's southern resorts alone, including 14 Americans.

Faulty equipment, poor communications and cumbersome bureaucracy are being blamed for the failure of governments to warn communities about to be hit by one of the world's most devastating natural disasters. ~
What to watch for:

With help streaming in, overstretched authorities were dealing with the logistical nightmare of getting it to the needy. Tons of supplies were backlogged in Indonesia, with thousands of boxes filled with drinking water, crackers, blankets and other basic necessities piled high in an airplane hangar nearly 300 miles from Banda Aceh, the wrecked main city in the disaster zone.

Two U.S. Navy groups of a dozen vessels -- led by the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard -- are headed for the coasts of Indonesia and Sri Lanka with supplies and, importantly, more than 40 helicopters to help ferry food and medicines into ravaged seaside communities.

Families around the Indian Ocean rim and beyond spent their sixth day of desperation trying to track down missing loved ones. Still missing are at least 3,500 Swedes, more than 1,000 Germans and 500 each from France and Denmark.

Who's talking:

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.

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