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Tsunami death toll more than 15,000 -

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Tsunami death toll more than 15,000

Reporter: Mark Bannerman

EMMA ALBERICI: As we go to air tonight, the death toll from the world's biggest earthquake in 40
years and the tsunami it generated is more than 15,000 and rising. The full extent of the tragedy
has been hard to calculate. The walls of water that hit the seven countries devastated already
primitive communications systems. It now appears that 5,500 Australians were in the region, and
it's confirmed that two are dead. We begin our special coverage with this report from Mark
Bannerman, and a warning that some viewers may find the following images disturbing.

MARK BANNERMAN: Anything you need to know about the horror of a tsunami is etched on the face of
this man from a village in the Indonesian province of Aceh. He is not alone in his devastation.
Here in the remote villages with few links to the outside world, there was no warning of the
massive wall of water that took all before it, sparing neither the old nor the young. In some
villages, it seems an entire generation has been virtually wiped out. Those who survived fled with
anything they could carry. But the main baggage will be the memory of that wave that took their
homes and their families away, perhaps forever. Little wonder these people were hit so hard. The
earthquake that generated the tsunami occurred here, just a few hundred kilometres from the
northern tip of Sumatra. First hit was the west coast, but the wave wrapped around the island,
devastating the east coast as well. The holiday resort of Phuket in Thailand and the Malaysian
coast were next in line. The first of three waves hit, inundating the foreshore. One British
tourist saw the water coming.

SANJAY SHAH (TOURIST): We were just at the hotel reception. We saw it coming over, and it went
right - halfway up to the swimming pool.

MARK BANNERMAN: Wow! What were you thinking at the time?

SANJAY SHAH: Pretty scared. We were actually on our way, so got in a taxi on our way to the
airport, and then the road runs across the coast, so we actually saw the second tsunami come over
as well.

MARK BANNERMAN: In other resorts, the wave hit with even greater force.

ROMAN QUADVILGE (TOURIST): When I looked at the swell, it was no bigger than a normal Gold Coast
swell, but because the land is so low-lying, the waves just came in and swamped the entire lowland
below where we were sitting. It was actually interesting to watch the emergency services response,
because they don't actually have them there - it was very underdeveloped -and there was just
absolute chaos and panic, people coming out in longboats trying to pick up people on driftwood and
all sorts of things.

MARK BANNERMAN: What did you see of the people who were swept away in that?

WOMAN: We just saw a few.

ED WEAVER (TOURIST): One gentleman said, "I know my seven friends aren't coming back with me
because I saw their bodies on the way up the beach." Another person was sitting on the beach and
the whole 40 people next to him were gone.

MAN: Suddenly I heard a noise - I didn't know what kind of noise - and then suddenly the came water
came in between the door, and within two minutes it was up to my breasts. I just managed to get my
safe, open the safe, and grab my clothes and put it in the case, and the bed was swimming in the
room. Everything was completely destroyed.

MARK BANNERMAN: Thailand, though, was just the beginning. Spreading out across the Bay of Bengal,
the tsunami hit Sri Lanka and then the coast of India. In that country, the impact of the wall of
water was there for all to see - villages overwhelmed, hospitals filled to capacity with
casualties. The country's Prime Minister seemed overwhelmed himself by the scale of the tragedy.

MANMOHAN SINGH (INDIAN PRIME MINISTER): My heart goes out in sympathy to all those families who
have lost their dear ones due to this tragedy.

MARK BANNERMAN: But it is Sri Lanka that has been hardest hit. In the port city of Galle, buses
became islands while life-and-death struggles were played out before the eyes of spectators. These
children found themselves clinging to a building. They thought they were safe, but not for long.
These men took refuge on a bus. They too thought they had found safety, at least for a few minutes.
It is hard to comprehend the extent of this disaster. The Maldive chain of islands in the Indian
Ocean was inundated and the fact remains not even aid agencies have escaped unhurt. In Australia,
World Vision's Tim Costello called a media conference to ask for donations, but first had to
explain some of his people in Sri Lanka had been caught in the tsunami.

TIM COSTELLO (AUSTRALIA WORLD VISION): We are trying to find out exactly now, for those Australians
who sponsor children in those areas, if those children are safe. We know that three staff family
members have died, have been - have drowned. We have other staff that are missing and, in the
confusion, we still don't have an up-to-date account of what's happened.

MARK BANNERMAN: As World Vision sees it, it will need to raise $10 million to $15 million from
donations. The key task is to get fresh water in there, food and cooking stoves. It is a big task,
but he thinks Australians will respond for one simple reason.

TIM COSTELLO: I think Australians will choose to give because they care, and I'm inviting them to
give because they care. I think we'll choose to give also because we know when it's as arbitrary
and cruel as a tsunami like this, it actually could be us, next year, tomorrow.

MARK BANNERMAN: And that, of course, is the point. These people may live very different lives from
us, but in their predicament, we see what might be, and in the faces of their children, we can also
see our own sons and daughters.

EMMA ALBERICI: Mark Bannerman with that report.