South Asia tsunami information   |   Information on Aceh

Indonesia expects toll to rise 50%

20 January 2005

The Indonesian tsunami death toll is likely to soar to 150,000 and Aceh province will need three to five years to rebuild, the government in Jakarta says.

"As of now, we know that there are over 100,000 dead and 40,000 missing," President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono told a conference of donors in Jakarta. "There are about 500,000 homeless people in the emergency camps and thousands of tsunami orphans."

Indonesia's Social Affairs Ministry had put the number of missing as of Tuesday at 12,070 but Haniff Asmara, the secretary of the disaster control force in Aceh, said 89,832 bodies had been retrieved and another 60,000 bodies were expected to be recovered over the next four weeks.

"Perhaps we will never know the exact scale of the human casualties," Dr Yudhoyono said.

"The most urgent task now is that of providing emergency relief and then to proceed with the phase of rehabilitation and reconstruction which will take between three and five years."

The Government estimated its loss from the tsunami to be $US4.5 billion ($6 billion), representing about 2.3 per cent of the country's gross domestic product.

But Dr Yudhoyono said the priority was to ensure people were able to resume making a living and to recover from their grief.

As concern grows over the security of aid workers and civilians in the province, the Foreign Minister, Hassan Wirajuda, said yesterday he hoped to hold talks by the end of the month with the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) in an effort to ease worries.

"Behind the cloud there must be a silver lining. Behind the scenes a process is happening towards reconciliation," he said.

His comments came after the United Nations said security might be tightened for aid workers bringing relief to survivors in Aceh. Mr Wirajuda said the tsunami disaster had prompted increased efforts to solve Aceh's separatist problem.

But Abdullah Zaini, a representative of GAM in Sweden, said he could not comment on the proposal for negotiations. "We still do not know the specifics of the plan," he said. "We prefer to hold the talks [outside Indonesia], but let us see the proposal first."

Dr Yudhoyono also announced he would form a new authority to oversee reconstruction of Aceh, which is expected to draw billions of dollars in rehabilitation funds.

The authority, which will be headed by a cabinet minister, will be charged with overseeing the money - an important task in a country long ranked as one of the world's most corrupt.

Rain is proving a bigger hindrance than security in transporting aid in Aceh, the International Organisation for Migration said yesterday.

The organisation's spokesman, Chris Lom, said a convoy of 40 trucks returning from Banda Aceh, the aid distribution hub for Aceh, to the North Sumatran capital of Medan had been forced to stop overnight, midway through its journey, because of floods.

The convoy, which was supposed to make the journey in 24 hours, was stuck somewhere near the border between Aceh and North Sumatra.

"Flooding is a bigger problem than security," he said.

Reuters and Agence France-Presse

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