Indonesia wants to monitor relief workers

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia – Indonesia’s military asked aid groups in tsunami-stricken areas Monday to draw up a list of international relief workers, and to report on their movements, as fears arose for the safety of foreigners helping survivors in a region wracked by rebellion long before the waves hit.

Indonesian authorities have long been wary of foreigners’ presence in the tsunami-stricken Aceh province, where separatists have been fighting government troops for more than 20 years. Foreigners were banned from the province at the northern tip of the island of Sumatra until the earthquake hit Dec. 26, touching off the tsunami.

Joel Boutroue, head of the U.N. relief effort in Aceh, said he did not believe Indonesia was trying to impede aid efforts with its request for relief worker information.

“It’s normal they want to know where people are,” he said. “I think it’s a legitimate concern for the security of relief workers, considering the environment in which we’re working.”

In the hard-hit village of Meulaboh, residents watched the landing of U.S. troops bringing aid with wonder and relief.

“We have lost everything. We can’t think about the future,” said Rajadin Amkar, who lost his wife and newborn daughter. “They can think about these things. It’s reassuring.”

President Bush said Monday the United States has a duty to continue helping the tsunami’s victims but he did not put any more money behind his commitment for long-term assistance. After hearing Secretary of State Colin Powell’s firsthand report of damage in the region, Bush told reporters “we’ll see” if the United States will give more than the $350 million in relief already pledged.

Canada, meanwhile, increased its funding for tsunami relief from $65 million to $345 million Monday, following criticism that Ottawa had given too little, too late. The new funding includes $215 million in emergency aid and $130 million over five years for reconstruction.

In Indonesia, fears of epidemic increased after medical teams detected two unconnected cases of measles and quickly vaccinated more than 1,000 people in nearby villages. Altogether, UNICEF is vaccinating about 600,000 survivors in Sumatra’s devastated regions.

Meanwhile, Indonesia’s government promised to intensify efforts to recover – and bury – tens of thousands of victims of the tsunami, which killed at least 152,000 people in 11 countries. Workers dug into the soft earth in the driving rain, hoisting the corpses into water-filled pits and heaping dirt over them.

Welfare Minister Alwi Shihab said 58,281 bodies had been buried in the shattered northern tip of Sumatra and about 50,000 more were “scattered” around the region.

In Thailand, forensics experts exhumed hundreds of bodies to extract DNA samples amid concerns they may include Westerners misidentified as Thais. The bodies had initially been buried in sandy trenches north of Khao Lak because there were not enough refrigerated containers to hold them.

Associated Press

A forest ministry elephant removes debris Monday in Banda Aceh, Indonesia.

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