U.N. calls Sumatra tsunami's 'ground zero'

Jan. 7, 2005 at 6:29 PM
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UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 7 (UPI) -- The United Nations says the Indian Ocean tsunami relief operation's top priority is reaching people in need, especially at Indonesia's ground zero.

"There are still many areas that we have not been able to get people to, many areas are still, particularly on the western coast of Sumatra, unreachable by land," said Kevin Kennedy, director of coordination and response for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. He called it "the heart of the crisis," explaining officials have dubbed where the Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunami first hit ground zero.

He told reporters at U.N. World Headquarters in New York in the coming days the relief operations would be calling on international military assistance to help repair key infrastructure, such as bridges, culverts and roads, to allow delivery of food and assistance in Sumatra and Aceh province.

Kennedy added that "rather substantial progress" was being made in the overall efforts to bring literally life-saving supplies to the survivors of the tsunami which is estimated to have killed more than 150,000 people in a dozen countries, injured 500,000 others and left up to 5 million more lacking basic services, many of them in emergency camps.

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