UN 'optimistic' on tsunami aid effort

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Monday, January 3, 2005

The United Nations (UN) emergency relief coordinator Jan Egeland has said that he is increasingly optimistic about the relief efforts under way in tsunami-stricken countries. However, he cautions that there are still major problems getting aid to the Indonesian province of Aceh. The BBC's Rachel Harvey, stationed in provincial capital Banda Aceh, reports that the area has been completely cut off for a week. He also said that logistical bottle necks that hampered speedy delivery of aid were improving, with new coordination centers set up in Aceh, near the epicenter of the earthquake, and Jakarta. Regional officials warn that despite improvements, some places may not receive aid for up to two weeks.

United States helicopters, based on a US aircraft carrier stationed off the coast of western Aceh, have begun dropping food and supplies into isolated parts of Aceh province. About 12 Seahawk helicopters are involved in the operation. "We are relying on the helicopter system because that is the only way we can reach the most remote areas," said Michael Elmquist, head of the UN disaster relief operation in Indonesia. According to the World Food Programme, some helicopters are unable to touch down because mobs of people run towards them for help. Supplies are often thrown out of the helicopters to the crowd below.