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RECOVERY EFFORT

Tsunami toll hits 150,000; aid boosted

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia -- Rescue workers pulled thousands more rotting corpses from the mud and debris of flattened towns along the Sumatran coast yesterday, two weeks after surging walls of water caused unprecedented destruction on the shores of the Indian Ocean. The death toll in 11 countries passed 150,000.

Hungry people with haunted expressions were still emerging from isolated villages on Sumatra island.

Staggered by the scale of the disaster, aid officials announced plans to feed as many as 2 million survivors each day for the next six months, focusing particularly on young children, pregnant women, and nursing mothers.

World Food Program Executive Director James Morris said at a Jakarta news conference that the operation is likely to cost $180 million.

''Many of the places where we work are remote, detached, and their infrastructure has been dramatically compromised," Morris said, a day after he visited Aceh with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. ''We will be distributing food . . . by trucks, by barges, by ships, by helicopters, by big planes."

He said the agency has now dispatched enough food in Sri Lanka to help feed 750,000 people there for 15 days.

Jeff Taft-Dick, World Food Program country director in Sri Lanka, said that was a critical milestone ''because there is now enough food around the country to feed everyone who needs it."

Morris said the agency was feeding 150,000 people in Indonesia and expected that to increase to 400,000 within a week and possibly reach as high as a million eventually.

As two Indonesian navy amphibious vessels zoomed ashore in Calang, hundreds of refugees lined up amid the wreckage of boats to unload supplies. Eighty percent of Calang residents were killed in the giant waves. The Indonesian military set up two field hospitals, one with 50 beds, the other with 20.

''The tragedy was terrible, but considering this, the survivors here now are in pretty good shape," said Dr. Steve Wignall, an American who works for Family Health International and was making an assessment with several other aid workers.

In other areas, victims were more vulnerable, though health officials said there were no signs yet of feared epidemics of disease.

President Bush, in his weekly radio address, said the United States was ''rushing food, medicine, and other vital supplies to the region. We are focusing efforts on helping the women and children who need special attention, including protection from the evil of human trafficking."

Indonesia, which has a reputation as a base for child trafficking gangs, said yesterday it was monitoring its borders to prevent such smuggling.

As aid poured into a region long troubled by separatist violence, Indonesian soldiers resumed patrols in Aceh province to search for rebels. International aid groups worried that renewed conflict could hamper their work.

Problems persisted in coordinating the humanitarian efforts. Aid groups complained that dignitaries visiting to look at the devastation have choked the tiny main airport in Banda Aceh and hampered distribution of relief supplies. The airport was temporarily shut for the visits of Annan and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, for example.

''It slows things down," said Major Murad Khan, a spokesman for Pakistan's Tsunami Relief Task Force.

US officials disputed the allegation, saying Powell's plane took off immediately after dropping him off Wednesday so it would not be in the way. He toured the area by helicopter, and Tim Gerhardson, a spokesman for the US Embassy in Jakarta, said aid shipments continued to flow during that time.

A delegation of US congressmen traveled to Banda Aceh later yesterday. They came by helicopter from the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier so they would not disrupt other flights.

Annan toured a Sri Lankan town where hundreds of shoppers at an outdoor market were swept to their deaths. He reluctantly agreed to a government request to bypass stricken areas controlled by Tamil Tiger rebels.

The Tigers, who have fought a 20-year war for Tamil independence from the Sinhalese-dominated south, invited Annan to tour the northern province. But government officials said they could not guarantee Annan's safety.

''I'm concerned about everyone with need in the humanitarian situation," Annan said. ''But I'm also a guest of the government, and we'll go where we agreed we'll go."

With volunteers and rescue workers reaching more remote areas, still more dead were found. Indonesian authorities raised their death toll estimate by nearly 3,000 to more than 100,000 and braced for tens of thousands more homeless than at first expected.

Sri Lanka, by contrast, closed scores of refugee camps as people began drifting back to their damaged homes. With 38 more confirmed deaths, the nation's death toll stood at 30,718.

World governments, led by Australia and Germany, have pledged nearly $4 billion in aid -- the biggest relief package ever. The United States has pledged $350 million, which Bush called only an ''initial commitment" and essentially a line of credit that can be spent as American relief officials identify needs.

The World Bank said it will consider significantly boosting its aid, perhaps to as much as $1.5 billion. It has already pledged $175 million in assistance to the 11 countries in Asia and Africa hit by the Dec. 26 disaster, but the bank's president, James Wolfensohn, said he was flexible on the amount.

''We can go up to even $1 billion to $1.5 billion, depending on the needs . . . our immediate focus is to provide relief to the affected people," he said at a news conference at the end of a one-day visit to Sri Lanka.

The tsunami battered Sri Lanka's southern and eastern coastlines, causing heavy damage to houses, hotels, and commercial buildings, and devastating the country's fishing industry.

The Sri Lankan government estimates it will need between $1.3 billion and $1.5 billion to rebuild.

Survivors in Indonesia struggled to put their lives back together, some straggling across debris-strewn miles of countryside to reach larger towns -- only to find those regional centers also flattened.

The relief effort is building quickly in Calang, 55 miles southeast of Banda Aceh, where the 1,000 survivors have been joined by 6,000 refugees even though only foundations of homes remain.

About 13,000 US servicemen are now in Indonesia and surrounding seas, along with 10 ships and more on the way, the US Navy said yesterday. The US military says it is incurring $5.6 million a day in operating costs.

At the bustling market in the Lambaro section, women haggled over costs of chilies, bananas, chickens, and goats. Barbers set up shop and old men sipped coffee at outdoor cafes.

But business was bad for fish traders, since many buyers were queasy because of the bodies washed out to sea.

''Business is down 50 percent," said one seller, wiping the flies off five fat tunas. ''People fear the fish are feeding on the human remains."

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