Wednesday tsunami update
The death toll: In this table.
The big picture: “The United Nations says ‘extraordinary progress’ is being made. The UN says the total amount of aid pledged had risen to between $US2 billion and $US3 billion ($A2.55 to $A3.99 billion).”
This is a handy list of who’s giving what. As the report notes, the aid is coming even “from the world’s poorest: Russian town of Beslan – scene of a bloody school siege last year – pledged 1m roubles ($36,000) from the fund set up after the mass hostage-taking; Mozambique – one of the world’s poorest nations – has donated $100,000; [and] Nepal and East Timor have also pledged donations.”
From Down Under:
“Australia is prepared to spend whatever it takes to help rebuild countries ravaged by the tsunami, Prime Minister John Howard will tell a relief summit in Jakarta today.”
Most of Australia’s effort is directed at Indonesia, which in addition to being the world’s largest Muslim country (and the world’s largest Muslim democracy), is our nearest neighbor, with a see-saw history of relations. It makes a moral sense, it makes a strategic sense, and it’s also an investment in the stability of Indonesia. Hence:
“Australia’s response to Indonesia’s tsunami tragedy has heralded a new era of close relations between the two countries, the Indonesian ambassador to Australia said yesterday, and would be remembered for ‘years to come’. The praise came as the [Sydney Morning] Herald learned that the Prime Minister, John Howard, was the first foreign leader Indonesia’s President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, contacted after the disaster.”
It’s not just Australia:
“Rear Admiral Doug Crowder of the US Navy was having trouble making out the words of his Indonesian counterpart, Major-General Bambang Dharmono, over the roar of the two US Seahawk helicopters parked behind them on the military airstrip.
“The silvery haired admiral moved closer, his hands still on his hips but his face now within 30 centimetres of the camouflage-clad Indonesian. They were comparing notes on the relief airlifted into Aceh for victims of the tsunami. Admiral Crowder could still not hear.
“So he bowed his head slightly, putting his ear up to General Dharmono’s mouth. Then he placed his left hand on the Indonesian’s shoulder.
“The image would have been unthinkable two weeks ago.”
As the report notes, “military officers on both sides acknowledged they could not have imagined such close cooperation, especially in such a politically sensitive province [Aceh]. Admiral Crowder said later that he expected the joint efforts would improve the prospects for resuming full military ties between the countries.”