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Aid teams converge on earthquake-hit islands -

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Aid teams converge on earthquake-hit islands

Reporter: Kerry O'Brien

KERRY O'BRIEN: The latest nightmare earthquake to terrify still-traumatised survivors of the Boxing
Day tsunami. The quake, which struck overnight off the coast of Sumatra, measured a massive 8.7 on
the Richter Scale and occurred close to the epicentre of December's shock wave, causing seas to
rise in some areas, but no tsunami. The remote island of Nias, off the west coast of Sumatra,
appears to have been the worst hit. And early reports today estimated deaths in the thousands. The
latest news is not so discouraging. The first reports from aid agencies have begun filtering out in
the past hour or two, and I've just got off the phone from the United Nations relief coordinator
for the area, Michelle Lipner, in Banda Aceh. Michelle Lipner, there's been a certain amount of
confusion through the day as to exactly the extent of the damage from this earthquake. I guess
that's understandable, but from your reports from the ground in Nias and other centres, what are
your latest figures on casualties?

MICHELLE LIPNER, CHIEF UN OCHA, SUMATRA: Well, we have advanced teams and response teams currently
on the ground in Nias and in Simalu. Communications are difficult with them. The earlier reports of
the initial stages of the assessments in Nias were figures quoted of 200 dead and 500 injured. That
was preliminary reports and we suspect, as we go deeper into the city area, that we will probably
find more casualties. We have been told that there will be various needs for evacuation of those
who are seriously injured and we will be looking to support a medivac of those who have
life-threatening injuries. We're also looking at enhancing our search and rescue teams because
there has been structural damage in Nias and that will no doubt also reveal additional casualties
as the day progresses. In Simalu, our earlier reports of the assessment and the response teams is
that there are reported three deaths and 57 injured. It appears that the more immediate response
will be much more modest than for Nias, where you're looking at some support for food and medical
support. The good news is that in Simalu as well you have a robust international NGO presence so
that there can be a rapid response to those needs. The concerns we will of course have is that as
the day progresses and we get more information to ensure the needs in Nias are attended to, we are
looking at, for example, providing food, sending out 500 tents, medical teams are already there and
more are coming. Medical supplies are coming. But we really need to be able to get a full picture,
which we hope to have by the end of the day so at first light we can ensure a coordinated and
effective response.

KERRY O'BRIEN: To what extent are you going to need to rely on extra outside resources beyond those
that are already in play as a result of the Boxing Day tsunami.

MICHELLE LIPNER: Well, the good news is that we have actually support from the Singapore military.
They are sending three Chinooks to support actually transmittal of tents and also some medical
teams that are being deployed from the Indonesian Government side. At this stage it is too early to
assess whether we will need support that comes from the outside. I think what has happened since
the tsunami of December 26 is that agencies have certainly stocked and stocked well for emergency
response in the event of additional earthquakes and potential tsunamis. Here we did not have a
tsunami last night. We had 13 quakes. The most serious one being 8.7, but that has not resulted in
a tsunami. So far emergency stocks are very robust and I think it will take for a couple of hours
until we get full reports back from the field to assess what type of support will be needed from
external sources.

KERRY O'BRIEN: It must have been a very tough nightmarish moment when the realisation developed
that there had been another major earthquake of this size?

MICHELLE LIPNER: It was frightening for us all in Banda Aceh. We were not at the epicentre, but it
was the most striking quake we have all felt in a number of months. It did result in some panic in
the streets, but the mosques and the police were very quick to say there is nothing to worry about.
But, yes, it was much too soon and certainly for the population here it was very traumatising and
needless to say, brought back all the memories an horrors of December 26.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Michelle Lipner, thank you very much for talking with us.

MICHELLE LIPNER: Thank you. Bye bye.