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AMERICAN MORNING

Vacationing Family Uses Medical Training to Help Tsunami Victims; Relief Efforts in Phuket

Aired December 31, 2004 - 8:59   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins.
RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Rick Sanchez. Bill and Soledad have the morning off.

COLLINS: Six days after disaster struck in southeast Asia thousands more are dead and the threat of disease is growing now for survivors. Here's what we know at this point. The total death toll now stands at more than 135,000. More than half of those are in Indonesia alone.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and Florida Governor Jeb Bush will head to the region Sunday to assess humanitarian needs. The State Department says thousands of Americans remain unaccounted for. Fourteen Americans are confirmed dead. And the U.N. says the total amount of aid pledged is now half a billion dollars, but more is needed.

SANCHEZ: There's some new photos that were taken before and after the disaster. We're going to show them to you here. They show the full extent of the devastation on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia.

These are satellite images that come from Banda Aceh. That's that area that we've bee telling you so much about. It's the island's northern tip before and after the massive waves hit.

The city was just 60 miles from the epicenter of the earthquake. You saw the picture before. There's the picture after. Indonesian officials say nearly 80,000 people have died in that particular region.

Well, the grief and the destruction caused by the tsunamis has triggered support and compassion from all over the world. In Sri Lanka, where more than 41,000 have died, the story of one vacationing family who decided to stay back and use their medical training to try and treat tsunami victims and help out in any way they can.

CNN senior medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is joining us now from Dodangoda. That's in Sri Lanka as well.

Sanjay, how are you?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Doing well, Rick. That's southern Sri Lanka. It is New Year's Eve here. Listen, we've told many stories about foreigners and tourists trapped in this beautiful land after the tsunami. What we found, though, some of the best stories were about those who decided to stay.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA (voice-over): At a time when many tourists and vacationers have vividly recounted their stories of survival and loss, one family can tell the story of their own personal relief effort.

DR. W.T. MAHESWARAN, VOLUNTEER DOCTOR: Well, we come from the U.K. for a holiday. And then we had to cut short our holiday because of the things that happened here.

DR. DHANUSHA, VOLUNTEER DOCTOR: She's not ever had anything like this happen before. I mean, we're in shock. And then you think, well, OK, we're not in the mood to travel around and do holiday stuff anymore. And so you just think you need to do something.

W.T. MAHESWARAN: Today, we have visited five camps and we have treated roughly about 400 patients.

GUPTA: The Maheswaran family emigrated to the U.K. years ago. But it managed to return to beautiful Sri Lanka for holiday every few years. But as the entire world now knows, this trip was different.

Father W.T. had been a medical doctor for more than 40 years. Dr. Dhanusha is 24 and had just graduated from medical school.

W.T. MAHESWARAN: We heard about this on the radio, and then we went traveling on the (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

D. MAHESWARAN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and the right time. And we saw the complications and we feel like we should be able to do something. So we couldn't -- couldn't leave really.

GUPTA: Vidhya is 20 years old and in her third year of medical school. The Maheswaran doctors have joined the handful of Sri Lankan doctors who are in their native country to offer their services.

VIDHYA MAHESWARAN, VOLUNTEER AID WORKER: Every single day you turn the TV on and the death toll is just, you know, even higher than maybe even 10 minutes ago. We feel quite lucky, and we just wanted to give back in some way. I mean...

GUPTA (on camera): You feel you did some good here?

W.T. MAHESWARAN: Yes.

D. MAHESWARAN: Yes. It's really nice to feel like -- like you've done something.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA: Things are starting to happen here, Rick, no question. Supplies are starting to come in, clean water. Safe food does appear to be available.

There's still a need for medications. Most of the gravely injured, though, have been taken to hospitals. So things on the mend -- Rick.

SANCHEZ: How do you celebrate or how do you bring in a new year, given the situation going on in this country? How are these people dealing with it, Sanjay?

GUPTA: You know, it's so interesting. We're at a camp for the displaced and the deprived, Rick. So we were surprised in some ways that there was going to be any celebration at all.

In many cultures, including here in Sri Lanka, which is 70 percent Buddhist, typically festivities don't happen after tragedies such as the tsunami. But as you look around here, Rick -- and this is the displacement camp -- I can tell you there was just some celebrating that already occurred. Bells were ringing, candles were lit, and there was a sense of optimism.

I talked to some of the people here. The sense of optimism really came about at the fact that, despite all the hardships that they have no doubt incurred over the past several days, they're alive. And they wanted to celebrate that. So, in fact there probably will be celebrations.

It's about 8:00 p.m. here now, four hours away from New Year's. I imagine more celebrations will continue into the night -- Rick.

SANCHEZ: We continue to have an interest in how the children are doing, Sanjay. And let me tell what you a spokesman for the Red Crescent and the Red Cross International is saying this morning. They say they believe that it's the children, the small children, those under five, who are particularly vulnerable. What are you seeing there as far as the needs of those children being met?

GUPTA: Yes, you're absolutely right. And that person is absolutely right about the younger children being the most vulnerable to the epidemics that we talk so much about, specifically cholera, dysentery.

You look at this camp right now. And again, it's an optimistic mood. It's a positive mood right now. But there's no denying the fact that you have 7,000 people all living in a very contained area. There's only three bathrooms, for example, on this particular settlement.

The unsanitary conditions put these small children, as well as the elderly, at risk of developing some of these diseases and spreading it among themselves. What's needed, Rick, and what can fix this are simple antibiotics. Twenty-five cent antibiotics could probably curb some of those epidemics. Again, we have seen some improvement in that, but not nearly enough as of yet -- Rick.

SANCHEZ: Sanjay Gupta following developments there for us. We thank you, Sanjay. We'll be checking back with you from time to time. GUPTA: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Heidi, over to you.

COLLINS: When the massive waves hit Phuket, Thailand, they did not discriminate, killing thousands of people regardless of race or wealth. But in response, Thais from all over the country are coming to Phuket to help in the relief efforts now. Aneesh Raman reports from there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the aftermath of unthinkable tragedy, a moment of remarkable humanity. Eighteen- year-old Tun Tai Wongseri fills out a name tag with the languages he speaks so that he can offer help and comfort to tourists. Every visitor here has a story.

TAN TAI WONGSERI, TSUNAMI VOLUNTEER: I ask them did they -- what did they lose, someone they lose, and family. All so -- all so sad.

RAMAN: Tan lives inland, far from the shores consumed by tsunami waves. After hearing about the disaster, he felt for the large number of foreigners among the casualties. Their faces surround everyone as a constant reminder of who was lost. The missing now, by many accounts, presumed dead.

(on camera): There are thousands of volunteers like Tan Tai coming here from all over Thailand, fueling this massive relief effort. This is a country that often finds compassion in crisis.

(voice-over): American Tony Carney has live in Thailand for well over a decade. The sights he sees now are nothing new.

TONY CARNEY, THAI RESIDENT: There's a concept in Thailand, in Thai culture, that doesn't even translate into the English language. The word is namtai (ph), which translating loosely is an outpouring of the heart. Thai people have a great pride in this concept.

RAMAN: Around this tent city, scores of volunteers looking to help shocked and stranded tourists wandering a foreign land, not speaking its language, torn from their loved ones. Tan and many like him are the core of Thailand's relief effort.

TAI: Maybe (UNINTELLIGIBLE) people.

RAMAN: Waving above the scene of sadness, Thailand's flag at half mast for its own people and the countless travelers who also perished here.

Aneesh Raman, CNN, Phuket, southern Thailand.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: The Thai prime minister says the eventual number of deaths there could exceed 7,000. And keep in mind, you can log onto cnn.com for much more on the tsunami catastrophe with more stories from survivors and information how you can help the victims.

SANCHEZ: Let's take you now from the streets of New York to Atlanta, where the CNN Center is and my partner, Daryn Kagan.

Daryn, what you got?

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Rick.

"Now in the News," CNN "Security Watch," federal authorities want to know who is shining lasers at U.S. planes. A pilot at Teterborough airport in New Jersey says three lasers were directed at his cockpit on Wednesday. According to officials, it is the seventh incident in recent days. All flights landed safely. The FBI has warned that terrorists may use lasers to try to bring down planes.

In Argentina, at least 175 people are dead following a fire in a Buenos Aires nightclub. Witnesses say there was a stampede to the exit doors when the flames broke out. More than 600 people are wounded.

Back here in the U.S., some Republicans in Washington State say they are not ready to give up. This even as Democrat Christine Gregoire was officially certified as the winner in the state's closest-ever governor race. The Republican opponent, Dina Rossi, says he is considering whether to contest the vote. A legal challenge can be filed until January 22, 10 days after the inauguration.

And Happy New Year. It is 2005 down under. Sydney the first major city to usher in the new year. Fireworks going off over the opera house there. Festivities are expected to go on all night.

Stay tuned to CNN for our own special New Year's Eve coverage with Anderson Cooper. It will be live from Times Square starting tonight at 11:00 Eastern.

Let's get a look at what we can expect for the weather for the last day of 2004. Chad Myers here with that.

(WEATHER REPORT)

COLLINS: Chad, thank you.

SANCHEZ: Thanks, Chad.

COLLINS: In spite of all the pain, the tsunami disaster has brought out the best in humanity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just when you think the world is rotten and can't get any worse, something horrible happens and you find out that people are OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: An outpouring of support from across the globe. Some of it coming from those who can afford it the least.

SANCHEZ: Also, turning swords into plow shares. How the U.S. military is preparing to help in the relief effort. It's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: A high-level U.S. delegation will leave for southern Asia this weekend to assess the tsunami tragedy. And White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux is in Washington now with more on that.

Good morning, Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Heidi.

Well, really, in a clear and public show of support, Secretary Powell is going to be meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in New York this afternoon to try to coordinate the efforts, the relief efforts between the United States, United Nations, Australia, Japan and India. Now, it was just yesterday that Secretary Powell visited the embassies of the countries most affected by the tsunamis, signed condolence books.

This comes following days of criticism that the Bush administration was not responding fast or significant enough to the crisis. And yesterday the White House announced that it was sending Secretary Powell, as well as the president's brother, Florida's governor, Jeb Bush, to lead a delegation to the region sometime over the weekend to assess what kind of aid would be most useful.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: Then you start to fill the pipeline. And that's what we're doing now with money, with food, with assets. As the need becomes clearer, you can expect the United States to make more significant contributions in the days, weeks and months ahead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: And Powell also mentioned that the $35 million really is just a down payment when it comes to aid.

Now, a lot of questions, of course, why Governor Jeb Bush. Well, aides say that it is because that Jeb Bush has extensive experience when it comes to handling natural disasters and relief efforts after those four hurricanes and tropical storms that hit Florida. Also, that the president, of course, feels close, and that this really shows that this is an important delegation. We also expect, Heidi, that in the following weeks there'll be a group of lawmakers who will visit the area as well -- Heidi.

COLLINS: All right. Suzanne Malveaux from the White House today. Thanks, Suzanne.

SANCHEZ: The first of many U.S. Air Force cargo planes has landed in Indonesia with supplies and with medicine. Just how is the military going to be using this relief in this region?

To kind of break that down for you, we're joined now by CNN military analyst, General David Grange. He is joining us from Chicago.

Good morning, General.

GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Good morning to you.

SANCHEZ: You know, when you look at this, you can't help but be a little bit concerned. There have been other times where we've gone into these parts of the world on a humanitarian mission -- Mogadishu comes to mind -- and suddenly things got a little bit ugly. Are you concerned, especially in areas like Sumatra, where there are some Islamic fundamentalist groups?

GRANGE: Well, that's always a concern. Security is your business as a trooper anywhere you are in the world. You always have to maintain security. But I don't think it's the same situation as Somalia. But the -- the requirement is going to be immense and put additional pressures on the military.

SANCHEZ: Is there any way you can go in there and kind of create, well, stopgaps to make sure that you're far enough away so that you're helping, but not too close so you can get involved with some of the ugliness that happens in some of these civil wars?

GRANGE: Well, there's going to be, you know, criminal activity, people that take advantage of those in distress, which is usually the case even in the United States of America when there's a disaster. But I think in this case, the United States, it's going to support and provide things that are then going to be distributed by a local -- locals of some of sort, whether they be military, police, or civil type servants of that particular nation. And I just don't think it will be the same situation.

SANCHEZ: Let's talk a little bit as we look at these pictures about what the U.S. military can provide in terms of both hardware and personnel.

GRANGE: Well, there's really emergency response requirements that are necessary, and then there are some long-term sustainment support. And initially, of course, water is the most critical item.

There's going to be some medical aid brought in, and then there's food and things like that. But the key thing is moving equipment around. That's the -- that's the hardest part and what many of these nations lack, whether it be fixed wing aircraft or helicopters, because the areas are remote and you can't land an aircraft to bring in supplies. SANCHEZ: You know, it is interesting. A lot of the military folks that I've always talked to have told me that Diego Garcia is such an important place. And as far as some of the things that you're talking about, supplies, and even personnel, to a certain extent, it is so close to this area, Diego Garcia. Has it been affected at all? What are you hearing?

GRANGE: Well, these are immense distances. So I guess it's close compared to other locations that the United States of America is sending support. In this case, military support.

SANCHEZ: Yes.

GRANGE: What's interesting is Diego Garcia is supporting a war, actually several fights ongoing...

SANCHEZ: Right.

GRANGE: ... as well as humanitarian assistance simultaneously.

SANCHEZ: So it's kind of interesting to think that suddenly that place, caught in the middle of this situation, in between the distance where the earthquake was and, for example, Somalia, which we mentioned earlier, which was even affected itself, is a place that's dealing with Iraq and at the same time now might be used for this, right?

GRANGE: Well, that's right. It just really, really hits home the fact that the armed forces of this nation is very flexible and covers the whole spectrum of emergencies, crises that may occur, either at home in the United States, where the armed forces are used extensively for natural disasters, as well as overseas.

SANCHEZ: Let's talk a minute if we can about U.S. forces used as ambassadors of goodwill, public relations, if you will. At a time when many, General, as you know, say the United States needs that, can it happen? How does it happen? What would you tell them if they were your troops and you were telling them you're going over there, this is what we can possibly accomplish?

GRANGE: Well, first of all, the armed forces of all services, Marines, Army, Air Force, Navy, are trained in humanitarian assistance. It's one of the missions, taskless missions that the services have.

And I look back on the 30 years I served. And I can tell you that our armed forces saves more lives than they take. There's less battle and more of this type of operation that you just don't hear a whole lot about.

And so they're prepared to do it. They're willing to do it. And if you go anywhere in the world -- and I just look at just many of the places, most of them very miserable because it's not anything like our home -- and the bags of food, whether it be weed or corn or rice, or whatever the case may be, the water, is all marked "USA." And it's amazing the impact this nation has globally.

SANCHEZ: David Grange, our military analyst. Thank you, General. Always good to talk to you. And Happy New Year.

GRANGE: Same to you. Thank you.

SANCHEZ: All right. Appreciate it.

Heidi, over to you.

COLLINS: The future is now for Australia, the land down under, already ringing in the new year. But will New York be ready for its big bash, especially since one of the biggest threats is invisible? That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: We're going to check in now with Toure once again and the "Question of the Day."

TOURE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Heidi, as the last grains of 2004 sift away, it's clear that this was the year of schadenfreude, the enjoyment of others' downfall. It was the year we loved to laugh at one another.

Republicans laughed at Democrats after the election, Red Sox fans laughed at Yankee fans. And many of us felt no pain enjoying the figurative falls of Martha, Kobe, Rush, O'Reilly and Bernie Kerik and the literal pratfall of Fidel Castro. It was the year the mighty fell and the rest of us enjoyed the show.

But what do you think? What do you think the year was about? Our question is, what made 2004 unforgettable? A couple of people with good answers.

Joe from Middletown, New York, "This is the year we gave up our rights as free Americans. We must take back our rights as American'ts." Yes, "American'ts," he says. "Vote in the next election."

That's interesting, "American'ts."

"The most memorable," Jake says, from Michigan, "The most memorable event of 2004 would have to be "Fahrenheit 9/11," when Michael Moore spent all the time of the nation trying to influence the nation to vote for John Kerry and still came up short."

And DLW from North Carolina with a heartwarming e-mail. "This year was about 34 years after I gave my son up for adoption we found each other this year. He, my daughter-in-law and my grandson have brought more joy to my life than I could ever express."

And that's what it's about for some people.

COLLINS: These are the stories we're looking for today.

TOURE: I know, right. Like personal stories, yes.

COLLINS: Yes. SANCHEZ: But most of the people e-mailing are political animals and they want to talk politics and all the things that go along with it.

TOURE: Absolutely.

SANCHEZ: Yes.

COLLINS: Thank you, Toure.

SANCHEZ: We thank them, too.

Thousands of Americanizing still unaccounted for. This is the tsunami aftermath that we continue to follow. The search is like finding a needle in a haystack in some cases. What type of progress is being made? We're going to talk to the man leading the hunt for the lost Americans. It's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: It is about half past the hour now on the final day of 2004. Sounds so profound, doesn't it? I'm Heidi Collins, in for Soledad O'Brien.

SANCHEZ: And I'm Rick Sanchez, in for Bill Hemmer.

The total death toll in the tsunami disaster is now at more than 135,000 people. Here is the very latest.

Of the total dead, nearly 80,000 are in Indonesia, more than 41,000 dead in Sri Lanka. And in India, at least 10,000 more are dead. Officials say the death toll of tourists could reach into the thousands by itself.

A U.S. military team arrived in Sri Lanka to distribute clean water, but aid officials say the devastated terrain is really making relief efforts extremely difficult for people to get there. And in addition to the half a billion dollars in aid already pledged, the U.N. says it will send out appeal for more in the new year.

There are some new photos that we want to share with you. They were taken before and after the disaster. It shows you exactly how much damage is done to the land's surface itself and the extent of the devastation in that Indonesian island of Sumatra that we've been talking about.

Here is that satellite image. It's in Banda Aceh. It's the island's northern tip, before and after the massive waves hit.

There its is before and there it is after. You can see most of the buildings are gone and suddenly the shoreline has incremented into the island, literally making it is smaller. It's just 60 miles from the epicenter of the earthquake, by the way. Indonesian officials say nearly 80,000 people have died in that region alone.

Heidi, over to you. COLLINS: The clock is ticking as the need for medical relief in southeast Asia grows. More than five million people across 12 countries survived the tsunamis and are now living without food, water and homes. They wait for essential supplies as aid organizations coordinate the massive relief effort.

Chip Lyons is the president of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. He's joining us now to discuss international relief efforts.

Thanks for being here, Chip. You know, we had talked for a few days about this is not just a snap fix. I mean, of course it's going to take time. But most importantly, the challenge in getting these supplies to the people.

CHIP LYONS, PRESIDENT, U.S. FUND FOR UNICEF: We still have to get a handle on the survival requirements, particularly of the kids. About a third of the dead and missing are children. And almost certainly a third of the survivors who are displaced are also young people, are kids. So the relief efforts need to focus on what kids need to survive the next phase.

COLLINS: OK. You brought along some things to show us in order to do that. Let's go ahead and take a look at what we're talking about here.

LYONS: Sure. To give a real practical idea, one of the most important things is clean water. So, what in the absence of -- I'm sorry.

COLLINS: Right there.

LYONS: Hold it here? I'm sorry.

COLLINS: Just so everyone can see. These are rehydration tablets.

LYONS: Rehydration salts, you mix it with a liter of water. So children that have diarrhea are able to drink this and they can recover. They won't dehydrate from that diarrhea. Literally, for six cent this is can save a child's life. In a circumstance like this diarrhea could be one of the leading causes of preventable deaths among kids.

COLLINS: I'm going to go ahead and hold this one up.

LYONS: You are better at it.

COLLINS: This is milk -- powdered milk.

LYONS: It is, but it is loaded with nutrients. So, again, it is not ideal to have to survive on that, but a child can. This is therapeutic feeding for those kids that would be most malnourished.

COLLINS: How much are we talking about, right here in this packet? So people have an idea of how much volume you are going to need to bring in there. LYONS: Sure. We will be sending tons of these kinds of packets in. This would be enough for several kids for a day, for example.

The high protein biscuits, also even easier to provide, loaded with energy. We will be buying those in increments, $5,000 for example, is enough to feed 1,500 kids for a month just on those biscuits. Nobody would want to have to survive just on those biscuits, but you could with proper water.

COLLINS: This is, like you said, this is the first step. Where do you go -- you've administered this and, hopefully you can get that to these people. What happens from there?

LYONS: Right now, we're dealing with hundreds of thousands, millions of kids whose homes, schools -- parents, in many cases, have been swept away. Our first requirement is their survival needs.

Secondly, we need to reunite them with extended family members or others in the community that will take care of them. Very quickly, though, we need to get -- address their psycho-social requirements, the trauma that they're facing.

You do that by bringing the kids together, allowing them to address the nightmares, their fears, let them draw. We'll be bringing in tents and other kinds of things that might be makeshift classrooms. Anything to help them get back to something close to normal.

COLLINS: I've heard experts say on our air, say there are two things children need and feel security, and that is their parents and their surroundings. So many of them have neither.

LYONS: That's right.

What also helps kids -- this is an unprecedented emergency. Unfortunately, we're practiced at emergencies. We have learned the hard way that addressing the psycho-social requirements of kids, by bringing other children together, kicking a soccer ball, drawing pictures. Letting them know they are not the only ones with these fear a huge contribution to make.

That's not something that should wait six or eight months. We need to do that as soon as we have a handle on their survival requirements.

COLLINS: We always say kids are so resilient, but boy this is...

LYONS: But they're vulnerable and they're at the center of this. We allocated $6 million just last night, we have raised over $10 million, just in the last three days. It is being used to get these kinds of supplies, there are 42 tons of supplies being flown into just Sri Lanka, on two planes in the last 48 hours.

Things are on the move. But we also have to get them to the people that need it. And that will be a challenge. It's not going to be easy. Just because I can show you these things here doesn't mean they will immediately get to Banda Aceh. Although I just heard our colleague was the first one, in terms of Western U.N. representative into Banda Aceh, just this morning, as a matter of fact. So, it will be slow in those areas most severely affected. But we're going to get there.

COLLINS: Thank goodness that you're there as part of this relief effort. We appreciate it so much. Chip Lyons, thanks.

LYONS: Thanks, Heidi.

COLLINS: Rick.

SANCHEZ: Let's look at the headlines on this day. Daryn Kagan is handling that for us, she is at the CNN Center in Atlanta.

Hi, Daryn.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN NEWS ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: Rick, "Now in the News", Secretary of State Colin Powell is meeting today with United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan to help coordinate recovery efforts in Asia.

Powell plans to travel there this weekend, along with Florida Governor Jeb Bush. They will meet with regional leaders and international organizations to assess the need for additional aid.

To Iraq, now, where soldiers carried out raids north of Baghdad. U.S. military officials say nearly 50 suspects were detained. The raids are part of a mission being called "Operation Powder River". Some bomb-making materials were also uncovered.

Back here in the U.S., word of a walkout at United Air Lines. The carrier's flight attendants are giving their union the green light to strike if their labor contracts get cut. United Air Lines says it regrets the union's decision, but it forced to slash benefits to get out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Thousands of people in Northern California are without power this morning. Last night's storm is the latest in a week of wintry conditions. Look at these pictures.

Heavy snow blocking major mountain roads. Winds reported as strong as 100 piles per hour. People are bracing for another onslaught of snow.

We'll get a check of today's weather with Chad. That's is just ahead, for now, back to New York.

COLLINS: All right, Daryn. Thank you.

Still hours to go before we celebrate the coming of 2005 here in America. But they are already ringing in the New Year in some parts of the world. Sydney, Australia, the first major city to kick off partying with a spectacular fireworks display.

Sydney Harbor, the opera house, there. You can see it. Beautiful showing of fireworks for everybody.

Here in New York City, thousands of revelers are expected to crowd Times Square to watch the ball drop at midnight. That means safety a huge concern for New York's Finest. Today in our "CNN Security Watch", Alina Cho is alive with a preview of what's being done to keep the party safe.

Alina, good morning.

ALINA CHO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you Heidi.

There will be several high-tech security measures in place today. Among them, police will test air quality throughout Times Square on the hour. And with 750,000 people expected here tonight, security, as always, will be tight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, guys, how are you. How you doing? Happy New Year. Thanks.

CHO (voice over): For New York City's top cop, Commissioner Ray Kelly, New Year's Eve security in Time's Square is like a well-oiled machine.

RAY KELLY, COMMISSIONER, NYPD: You will see, as usual, a large number of uniformed officers.

CHO: Uniformed and plains clothes officers, checkpoints, specialized terrorism units and seven helicopters, including a new one that can detect radioactive material and equipped with camera that is can identify people clearly in the dark.

CHO (on camera): In realtime?

KELLY: In realtime. It has high-power cameras, transmits pictures right down to the ground.

CHO (voice over): The city says New York, for the first time since September 11th, is back as the number one tourist destination for New Year's.

CHO (on camera): Do you breathe a big sigh of relief on January 1, every year?

KELLY: Yeah. There is a kind of collective sigh of relief, but then it is on to the next challenge. This is New York. We have major events here all the time. We always have these challenges. It is the nature of the city. It is what makes New York, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHO: It will be a big party here in Time's Square and a historic one. This marks the 100th anniversary of the first New Year's celebration in Time's Square. Secretary of State Colin Powell, a New York native, will help start the final 60-second countdown to 2005 -- Heidi.

COLLINS: All right, Alina Cho, thanks for that. Happy New Year, to you.

Stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security.

And you will also want to join Anderson Cooper ringing in the New Year with special guests and celebrations from all around the world. Live coverage from Times Square starting tonight, at 11:00 Eastern.

(WEATHER FORECAST)

SANCHEZ: The toll of Americans (sic) killed in Sunday's tsunamis is now standing at 14,000 more are missing, or thousands more are missing. We've been telling you from time to time it is up to 135,000 now. In Sri Lanka, the search for survivors is a daunting task, to say the least. Mark Williams is a counsel with the U.S. embassy there in Colombo.

We are talking to you because what we'd like to do is get a sense of what Americans can do if they have someone they would like to locate but haven't heard from since. What advice would you give them?

MARK WILLIAMS, U.S. EMBASSY COUNSEL, SRI LANKA: Well, I think the most important thing is that, first off, we are attempting to locate all the Americans not accounted for. We're putting every effort into that.

Today, we sent out a team to a part of the country that is very remote, rather isolated, near a national park, which was hit very hard by the tsunami. They are spending the night down there to locate any of the missing or those unaccounted for at the time.

Probably the best thing that Americans can do in order to be able to help us do this is, if you know of anybody who is accounted for, who is in other words, has safely returned to the United States or in a different location, let us know in order that we can focus our efforts on those who are truly not accounted for.

This makes it much easier for our task force in Washington, my consular staff here in Colombo. So, the best thing I can say is that if you know somebody is not in Sri Lanka, they were traveling in multiple countries and you have heard that they are OK, please, let our task force know. That would make our job easier so we can focus on those that we truly cannot account for at this time.

SANCHEZ: That is interesting that you make that point, because originally we had reports that thousands more had remained unaccounted for. But then they said about 600 have now been found, but more names are being added to the list. It is hard to get a definitive number on that.

We thank you, Mark Williams, with the U.S. embassy there in Colombo, for bringing us up to date on that and giving some advice, some of the people who may be wanting to help or locate people. Heidi, over to you.

COLLINS: You don't have to break the bank to help victims of the tsunami disaster, but for some American kids, it means breaking the piggy bank. A heart-warming story ahead.

SANCHEZ: Also, Iraq dominated the headlines for much of 2004. But will Mideast country grab the spotlight in 2005? That's ahead. We'll look at it, that ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. I'm Rick Sanchez. Last trading day of the year, did you know? David Haffenreffer is joining us now. He's filling in for Andy, he's "Minding Your Business" for some of 2004's winners and losers.

A full day out there, today, huh? That's kind of surprising.

DAVID HAFFENREFFER, CNN FINANCIAL CORRESPONDENT: Full day, today, Rick.

And that opening bell, that final opening bell, the final trading day of the year, rang about 14 minutes ago. We are stand now, we are just modestly to the upside with the Dow Jones industrial average higher by just 10 or 11 points, 10,811.

The big story here, this entire week has been the fact that traders, for the most part, have basically already packed up and gone home for the year. The volume numbers all week, this week, have been extremely light.

As for the year in general, if we take a look at how things have looked so far this year, year-to-date numbers, it looks we're going to end on a fairly positive note for the three major indices. The Dow is higher right now, by 3.3 percent, year-to-date. The Nasdaq higher by almost 9 percent; S&P 500 -- the bulk of these gains, we should note, though coming on the heels of the election.

So, only since November have we achieved the gains. For the most part, for the rest of the year the market had been moving somewhat sideways.

Let's talk about some of those big winners for the year. And there have been many. Among the standouts, Apple Computer, of course, their iPod has been an enormous success. The MP-3 player, the gadget that everybody seems to have these days. The stock has gone up 203 percent, as a result of that popularity.

Sirius and XM Satellite, both make up part of the satellite radio industry. And industry that has been legitimized in 2004 to some degree; Sirius Satellite hiring Howard Stern to be one of their, really a cornerstone talent on their service. Hiring Mel Karmazin, from Viacom, as well to help make that industry a success. XM Satellite, also part of that industry, benefiting from those two hires over at Sirius, as well. Dot.com has made a comeback in 2004, as well. Some strong performers. Really gains that we haven't seen since early 2000, essentially. Overstock.com, up 252 percent. Google, eBay, Yahoo, also doing very well.

A quick check on the losers on the year, though. Because we don't want to leave them out. As you can see most of them out of the pharmaceutical sector. All sorts of troubles in that sector, having to do with reports and studies done on drugs that had some side effects that were less than pleasant, to say the very least.

So, overall, though, a year of gains for 2004 -- Rick, back to you.

SANCHEZ: David Haffenreffer, we thank you for bringing us up to date. Have nice New Year, yourself, by the way.

HAFFENREFFER: Happy New Year.

SANCHEZ: Heidi, over to you.

COLLINS: Throughout the week, in our series "The Last Word" we have looked back at the people and events making big news in 2004. Today, a look ahead to what will make headlines in 2005.

For more overseas to upcoming celebrity courtroom battles, AMERICAN MORNING says so long to 2004, with "The Next Word".

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEN POLLACK, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: I think right now much of the Arab world is holding its breath and waiting to see if this experiment in Iraq is going to succeed.

BEN STEIN, AUTHOR, "CAN AMERICA SURVIVE": If we end up with a pacified, friendly, democratic Iraq, it will all have been worthwhile. I pray that we will. I pray that a year from now, I'll be eating crow and saying Rumsfeld was a genius.

POLLACK: If it fails, I think the cause of the democrats will be irreparably be harmed. And it may be that once we fail in Iraq -- if we fail in Iraq, that afterwards the Arab world will once again, go back to debating autocracy versus Islamism.

I think that 2005 is going to be the year when we decide that we're either going to make an effort that has some chance of derailing the Iranian nuclear program, or else we stick our heads in the sand. And at some point, in 2006 or 2007 or 2008 or 2009 or 2010, we find ourselves dealing with a nuclear Iraq.

LISA BLCON (ph), COURT TV: Here are the big trials coming up in 2005. Robert Blake: Blake tends to be very melodramatic. He plays the ukulele out in front of the courtroom.

ROBERT BLAKE (singing): Somewhere up over the rainbow...

BLCON (ph): Michael Jackson may be the most difficult celebrity for any attorney to reign in.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: What you will have in that trial is the defense saying that the victim, alleged victim, is a liar. His parents are greedy. The prosecution is out to get him.

And you have the prosecution saying, Michael Jackson is an evil child molester. It will be ugly, ugly for months.

B.J. SIGESMUND, STAFF EDITOR, "US WEEKLY": You know what's going to happen at the "Super Bowl"? Paul McCartney. Big difference from last year. Not exactly a nipple-revealing kind of guy.

DEROY MURDOCK, SCRIPPS-HOWARD COLUMNIST: In 2005, the New York Yankees will have the opportunity to exact justice on the Boston Red Sox. It is never too late for justice. Come fall 2005, the Yankees will have the opportunity to put Boston back in its place.

SARAH BERNARD, Next year, the Oscars is going to be extremely interesting. Most of all, the story is going to be all about Miramax. This is the final curtain call for Harvey Weinstein and Miramax. That is going to mean that he is going to put everything that he has left, behind "The Aviator".

Two of the big questions are going to be what are they going to do about "The Passion" and what are they going to do about "Fahrenheit 9/11", these are like the elephants in the room.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The president has had a remarkably united party. They were so determined not to see John Kerry benefit from that that they kept their counsel to themselves. I think what 2005, and beyond, may well show us is that these Republican voices will be far less accommodating to the president.

MARY MATALIN, BUSH SR. CAMPAIGN MANAGER: What he'll be allowed to do, now that we've set a course for the global war on terror, and it has been validated by the vote he received, he'll be able to turn his attention and focus to those domestic problems that have been plaguing us, Social Security reform, tort reform, tax reform.

BETTY CORTINA, "LATINA" MAGAZINE: What I want to see for 2005 is probably what everybody wants to see, is that after a presidential election that really divided this country into segments, and voting blocks, and parties, is to see the country come together.

NANCY REAGAN, FORMER FIRST LADY: There's so many disease that is can be cured -- or at least helped. We've lost so much time already, and I just really can't bear to lose anymore.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think about a year from now we'll continue to make significant progress in stem cells. We may even start to see some therapies for things like diabetes, Parkinson's and spinal cord injuries. We may be better at treats cancer as well, which is exciting.

The problem is, I don't think we've figured out exactly how we are going to pay for all of this. And that, may end up being one of the biggest issues of 2005.

ANDY SERWER, COLUMNIST, "FORTUNE": The price of oil went up, to a degree, because of speculators. But the risk is real. The great unknowns are the war on terror and war in Iraq. And, obviously, a domestic terror incident would be so costly to our psyche and of course to the economy, as well. That is the huge wild card, and no one knows, and that hangs over us.

POLLACK: So far, everything is quiet. It is fair to ascribe that to many of the steps that we took over the course of 2003 and 2004. But 2005 is a different very issue. No one knows if, perhaps, Al Qaeda hasn't learned a thing or two as well.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: And onto a New Year, we go.

Meanwhile, though, amid all the stories of devastation that we've been telling you about with the tsunami disaster, there are some really great ones to share. We have an extremely heart-warming one coming your way, next on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: We welcome you back.

COLLINS: The devastation in South Asia has lead to an outpouring of support from people all around the world. Workers at the relief organization, Save the Children, reported yesterday.

SANCHEZ: They were getting $10,000 an hour in donations. Today's "Extra Effort", Mary Snow talked with workers from that relief group.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(PHONE RINGS)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Save The Children.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Half a world away from the destruction in an affluent American suburb...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for calling Save the Children.

SNOW: ...the phones don't stop ringing. People desperate to help the smallest victims of the tsunami.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you guys have things that would be useful as donations?

SNOW: People walk in the door to give. And Eileen Burke is heading out the door, destined for Indonesia.

EILEEN BURKE, SAVE THE CHILDREN: I think you kind of check the emotional state at the door. This is the most dangerous time for children, as well, where they'll become victim to diarrhea, cholera, outbreaks of disease. That is why it is incredibly important for us to get in there.

SNOW: Burke is headed to help fellow staff members of Save the Children, in Banda Aceh, where some of the groups own aid workers were killed.

BURKE: You realize what little it takes to make a difference. It is extremely motivating.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Save the Children.

SNOW: The group says it has seen the biggest outpouring in its 70-year history, more than $2 million in the last few days, some of it from children.

CAT LYDDON, SAVE THE CHILDREN: A man called in and the dollar amount was $700.13. So, I said, oh, 13. Sounds like a piggy bank. It was his kid's piggy bank.

SNOW: But it is not just money.

LYDDON: We had a truck driver call from the Midwest, Edward. He wanted to go drive a truck, because that's what he could do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I took a couple calls from people who wanted to adopt children.

SNOW: With images that some here find hauntingly familiar.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think also, it has brought back some memories about 9/11 with the pictures of people on the wall, and looking for survivors.

SNOW: Eileen Burke considers herself fortunate to be able to help survivors first-hand. Others find comfort in witnessing the generosity.

LYDDON: Just when you think the world is rotten and can't get any worse, something horrible happens, and you find out people are OK. And, you know, there is good in people's hearts.

SNOW: Mary Snow, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Save the Children reports this morning that they have actually raised more than $4 million from people in the United States since this tragedy struck. We'll be back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: That's it for us here on AMERICAN MORNING. We sure do wish you all a very Happy New Year. In the meantime, Daryn Kagan is standing by at the CNN Center now, to take you through the next few hours of CNN LIVE TODAY. SANCHEZ: Hi, Daryn.

COLLINS: Hi, Daryn.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR, CNN LIVE TODAY: Good morning to you.

I don't want to see you guys working until next year.

COLLINS: You got it.

(LAUGHTER)

KAGAN: Take the rest of the year off. That's from me. You guys have a great one.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com.


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