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Region reels from natural disasters -

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SHANE MCLEOD: To the natural disasters across the region. Rescue efforts are in full swing after a
series of typhoons, floods, earthquakes and tsunamis battering several countries, leaving thousands
dead and causing widespread destruction.

The death toll from the earthquake that's devastated the Indonesian island of Sumatra has now
passed 1,000 and it's expected to rise. Hundreds of buildings including hospitals, schools and
hotels have been destroyed.

The Samoan islands and Tonga are still reeling from the impact of tsunamis that have killed around
150 people, injured hundreds more and destroyed entire coastal communities.

Meanwhile, the clean-up continues in the Philippines from last weekend's devastating rains that
flooded the capital Manila, killing 277 people and displacing up to 700,000 others.

Typhoon Ketsana then continued on to Vietnam and Cambodia killing about 100 more.

And it may not yet be over for the region with another typhoon, Parma, reportedly gaining strength
as it moves across the Pacific towards the Philippines with possible wind speeds of up to 200
kilometres per hour.

As the frantic rescue and recovery efforts continue, aftershocks continue to hit the region and bad
weather is causing more problems for disaster officials.

Aid agencies are focusing on delivering food and temporary shelters and improving sanitation to
provide clean drinking water.

Australia has also been affected with up to dozens of holiday makers and permanent residents in the
affected countries remaining unaccounted for.

We'll go to Sumatra first where the death toll from the earthquakes continues to climb as rescuers
work to save people trapped beneath the rubble.

The main hospital in the region has been destroyed and the Indonesian Government has accepted
Australia's offer of immediate assistance.

An urban search and rescue team from Australia is due to arrive in Sumatra later.

Our correspondent Geoff Thompson is in Sumatra; I spoke to him by satellite phone.

Geoff Thompson, you're in Padang. What are you seeing there this morning?

GEOFF THOMPSON: Well, this morning Shane people are out and about. Many of them are without
adequate shelter. In the centre of the city most of the larger buildings have collapsed or at least
been badly damaged and I think that's where most of the deaths are being recorded.

We've got some new figures in. Official figures are now that 390 people are dead, 2,000 are injured
and there are 1,590 minor injuries. But officials still believe that the UN for example estimated
that the death toll could reach past 1,000 and other Indonesian officials still think it might
reach into the thousands.

But I think what's becoming clear though this morning is it's not on the level of the Yogyakarta
earthquake in 2006 where almost 6,000 people were killed.

There are residential areas which are largely untouched. There's certainly a lot of damage and
certainly a lot of people still could be buried but it's probably not as bad a disaster as was
first feared.

SHANE MCLEOD: Where are the Indonesian authorities focussing their attention at the moment?

GEOFF THOMPSON: Look in pockets around Padang City, particularly where there are these big, you
know, structures there's heavy earth moving equipment excavators in there trying to get to these,
tearing through these sort of concrete and steel, this mess of concrete and steel, trying to get to
pockets. And there are undoubtedly pockets within there where survivors could still be.

That seems to be the major focus in Padang City. I mean there's still a chance that people could
survive this. In the last few days we have seen three people emerge from the rubble alive and there
are hopes in fact that there will be more. So that seems to be the focus here.

In the hospitals the immediate demand on injured people has died down a bit. We had a look there
overnight. There were people being operated on and the first day out under the stars the operating
table was empty. But the morgue, open air morgue on the grass there was looking pretty full.

SHANE MCLEOD: Have you heard anything Geoff from the local authorities as to whether or not they
need specific help from aid agencies in certain areas like medical supplies?

GEOFF THOMPSON: Look from where I am and you've got to appreciate that communications are very poor
here and we arrived sort of after dark last night so our capacity to get around and see and speak
specifically about such things has been difficult.

Look, I think you know there are specific needs but from where I'm standing on the ground it's
difficult for me to know.

SHANE MCLEOD: And the people of Padang themselves, are they coping?

GEOFF THOMPSON: There are pockets of people under tarpaulins, under tents and things like that. I'm
yet to see a sort of mass refugee area but I'm sure they're here, an internally displaced person
area. I'm sure they're on the outskirts of the city somewhere.

What you do see is people camped out on their front yards and that sort of thing. You see a lot of
people milling around the areas where the heavy earthmoving equipment is trying to shift the
rubble. And you know, obviously a lot of those people are relatives and they're still searching for
loved ones that went missing in those buildings.

I mean the Hotel Ambacang I'm outside here now had up to somewhere in the vicinity of 150 staff and
guests in it at the time it collapsed so there's a lot of people who are missing and a lot of
people who are also looking for them.

SHANE MCLEOD: And Jeff Thompson the weather was a factor earlier on. Is it still raining there?

GEOFF THOMPSON: It's not. It's a very clear sky this morning and that's something that's been very
much welcomed by rescue workers and I think that the people of Padang City as well.

SHANE MCLEOD: Indonesia correspondent Geoff Thompson, reporting from Padang City in Sumatra.