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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Tsunami Death Toll 155,000 & Counting
Aired January 2, 2005 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, the tsunami death toll more than 155,000 and still counting.
Now after one of the worst disasters the world has ever seen, one of the biggest relief efforts in history races the clock to keep a second wave of death, disease and starvation from claiming the millions left homeless.
With us tonight, Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, practicing physician who will fly to devastated Sri Lanka on Tuesday;
Jan Egeland, United Nations undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator;
Dr. Derrick DeSilva, Jr. He's an M.D., used to live in Sri Lanka, has two aunts there who survived the tsunami;
Plus more reporters and relief workers on the front lines of disaster from India to Indonesia on a special Sunday night edition of LARRY KING LIVE.
Here with you live, we begin with Senator Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader, first practicing physician elected to the Senate since 1928. He's board certified in general and cardiatic surgery -- cardiac surgery.
And he travels to the disaster stricken areas on Tuesday. That's right after congress is sworn in, senator?
SEN. BILL FRIST (R), TENNESSEE, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Larry, it is. We're going to come in Tuesday morning. We'll swear in the new United States Senators.
That will be, actually, a very short day. And then I'll be leaving shortly after that to go to Sri Lanka and then later to India.
KING: Are you going as a physician, majority leader or both?
FRIST: Well, the answer is clearly both, Larry. I have spent a lot of time in regions of the world where there has been civil strife. When we had the SARS epidemic, I was in China. I spent a lot of time in HIV/AIDS torn countries, whether it's Sudan, or Kenya or Uganda. And now will be going in part as a physician.
As your set up just said, we have this potential second wave coming through primarily centered on waterborne illnesses but also things like malaria and Dengue fever. And I'm going to assess that as a public health official, but also as majority leader of the United States Senate, to assess what's going on the ground to make sure that the money that we are putting there is being spent at the appropriate level and, of course, to make sure from an accountability standpoint that it's being spent in an effective and an efficient way.
KING: How long do you expect to be there?
FRIST: Well, I don't know. I know that I'll be back before the president is -- inauguration, but will be in that part of the world for several days, predominantly in Sri Lanka and hopefully in Southeast India.
KING: All your experience, though, couldn't have given you a prelude for this.
FRIST: No, it hasn't. You know, these are natural disasters, all that I mentioned -- HIV, AIDS, which has killed 60 million people, the SARS epidemic that nobody expected now two or three years ago, and now this natural catastrophe, which has an untoward, untold, heartbreaking effect on our psyches, on the people who are there in that part of the world.
It's an incomprehensible tragedy in so many ways.
KING: Jan Egeland in New York, the United Nations undersecretary for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief. You said we're in a race against the clock. How's it going?
JAN EGELAND, UNITED NATIONS EMERGENCY RELIEF COORDINATOR: I hope we're winning in this race against the clock.
Last year ended with tragedy and nature at its worst. This year starts with humanity at its best.
I've never, ever seen how the world has been able to pull out thousands and thousands of relief workers, local, national and international. And virtually billions of dollars worth of assistance that is now pouring in even though, we must admit, we have unbelievable bottlenecks, especially in Indonesia, Northern Sumatra and Aceh.
KING: Has your initial criticism been rectified?
EGELAND: My criticism was one directed against the whole rich world, which had decreased its assistance in 2004 to the poorest of the poor. I have found these six days to be the most generous ever in my 25 years of international relief work.
And from the United States to East Timor, private people and governments are at their best.
KING: Senator Frist, before we get to Dr. DeSilva, were we late?
FRIST: No, we were not. And I know we've had certain people criticize us from other countries, from the United Nations, and even people in this country.
But I can tell you based on my personal experience what happened over that first 24 hours. In that first 24 hours, we had six disaster declarations so that the money that we appropriated from last year can begin to flow immediately.
Secretary Powell called all the ministers. We called all the ambassadors. Within 72 hours, we had the full resources of the United States of America directed at this human tragedy that we haven't seen in recent times.
So, I personally think it is very unfair, unfortunate. But as you have just heard, people do recognize that the United States of America is leading, a compassionate country, a caring country, a powerful country.
And just like we can fight wars powerfully, when it comes to helping other people, we can fight powerfully as well.
KING: Dr. Derrick DeSilva used to live in Sri Lanka, has two aunts still there. And thank God they are OK. What do you hear from there?
DR. DERRICK DESILVA, JR., M.D., LIVED IN SRI LANKA: What we're hearing now, Larry, is that the aid is getting there. The food is getting there. The clothing is getting there. Some shelter is getting there.
And, in fact, the Sri Lanka Medical Association of North America has purchased over a million tablets for water purification. And that has gotten there. It is being distributed.
This tremendous task that is going to be a very, very long journey has begun. And the steps have been taken. And we are going to make a difference.
The world has pulled together. And it is -- it is a wonderful thing that is happening in this world bringing everybody together. And I think this journey is going to be a long one, and we are going to make it.
KING: We asked you last week if you plan to go. Are you going?
DESILVA: I have spoken with quite a few people, quite a few physicians that are going. My plans, at this point, are not known.
I really do believe that my best efforts are going to be made in this country working with -- on doing shows like this, doing the media that I have been so fortunate, been blessed to be on.
I think the efforts, my personal efforts, are going to be within this country to get the word out and to get what we need to get done in this country put forth.
KING: Senator Frist, in dollars, the United States, I think, has pledged $350 million. Do you expect the Senate to go higher? FRIST: You know, what we will do is what the United States has done from day one. And I've been involved in working with the administration -- again, I represent the legislative branch -- been working with them from day one.
I've made it very clear that when the president says that he needs those supplemental funds in the United States Senate, we will put business aside, and we will address it at that very moment.
What is so clear to me -- and again, it's important for the American people and indeed the world to understand -- is that the assessment is under way, that we're doing it predominantly through groups like USAID, our agency for international development on the ground.
I just talked a few minutes ago, or about 30 minutes ago, to administrator Natsios, who is on his way with Secretary Powell. They're in Germany right now on their way to visit that part of the world.
As the assessments come in, we will respond and we will respond aggressively and appropriately.
Again, we're going to make sure for the American people and for the world that accountability is there. We want to make sure this money can be spent effectively. And it shouldn't be just a bidding match to see who can invest the most money or throw the most money at the problem.
We went to assess, see what the diagnosis is and then spend appropriately. And that's what the United States Senate will do.
KING: We'll take a break. We'll be right back. We will include phone calls for these guests. And we'll get to some of them, as well, in this special hour of Sunday night edition of LARRY KING LIVE.
Don't go away.
KING: We're back with physician and Senate majority leader, Bill Frist; with Jan Egeland, the United Nations undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs; and with Dr. Derrick DeSilva, who used to live in Sri Lanka, internist, part of the attending staff at Raritan Bay Medical Center.
We're going to include some phone calls as well.
Jan Egeland, are we assured that the money is getting through?
EGELAND: Yes, we are sure that the money is getting through. We are saving thousands of lives every day.
And let me say here that I very much agree with the senator. The United States was very fast. There was nothing to criticize. I have only praised what we have now on the ground, also military assets that are worth their weight in gold because we need these helicopters to get out to those isolated places.
What I fear is that there are still areas we will not be able to reach in the next days, and then disease, even cholera may break out. And herein lies the race against the clock.
KING: And we'll get into that.
Senator Frist, who should the average citizen give to? You've got $10. Who do you send a check to?
FRIST: Larry, it's a good question. And it's one that increasingly people will focus on because as we know, whenever this much money is flowing into a great cause, the potential for shysters and money being siphoned off and people being taken advantage of is always there.
On my own Web site, Frist.Senate.gov, which is on the Web, I list about 40 sites that I am very comfortable with.
On the Web site of USAID, which is our lead agency, our government agency, there is a list of sites that we're comfortable with. We're not giving preference to particular sites, although I do have my favorite sites as well.
And I'll go ahead and tell you those, although officially I shouldn't be doing that.
KING: Go ahead.
FRIST: Sites like World Vision, sites like Samaritan's Purse, like Catholic Relief Services. These are organizations that I've worked with on the ground. I've seen them on the ground work effectively.
But as you all -- as you know that there are 20, 30, 40, 50 or 60 very good sites. I do encourage people to know who they're giving to, to hold them accountable. And you can search them on your Web sites, or you can look at my Web site or that of USAID.
What's your Web site again?
FRIST: Mine is Frist.Senate.gov.
KING: Is money the number one thing you can give, senator?
FRIST: Yes, it is, Larry. And again, churches are responding. Mosques are responding. Community groups, nonprofits are responding. And the tendency is take your clothes or take your canned goods or empty out your medicine cabinet. And none of that, unfortunately, is helpful.
We want to give. The most effective thing we can do, whether it's to government organizations or the non-government organizations, or nonprofits, or charities, the most effective thing that you can do is give cash.
And the reason is, is because it that Indian Ocean, there are 11 countries that are affected. Thousands and thousands of miles of beaches, but each one is a little bit different.
Distribution is going to be important. Some have good agriculture and don't need food. Others have good infrastructure with hospitals and don't need the medicines.
So what you need to do is give the money. Have it distributed so that each individual region of a he country will be able to purchase what they need to respond to the injury, to the health care, to the cholera, to the starvation, to the shelter, and eventually to the economic development, which is something that we do need to focus on in rebuilding these regions.
KING: Dr. DeSilva, the number one problem, I'm told, is waterborne diseases, dysentery, cholera, typhoid, airborne diseases, respiratory illness, pneumonia, influenza and diarrhea.
And we're told that two million people died of diarrhea-type diseases, die of it every year. What kills you with diarrhea, doctor?
DESILVA: Could you -- what was that again, Larry? What...
KING: What about diarrhea would kill you?
DESILVA: Oh, it's -- the big thing with diarrhea is the dehydration.
Once you are dehydrated -- and you know what people don't understand is that, that statistic that you read, that two million people die every year in the world of these type of diarrheal diseases.
And we in this country say, well, how can that be? Well, we don't see this in this country.
When somebody has diarrhea, once they get dehydrated, they get to the hospital. They get intravenous fluids, and they usually get better.
In other countries, we don't have the intravenous hydration. We don't have the wonderful electrolytes that we do, that we are able to give people in this country.
What kills people with diarrheal diseases is the dehydration. Once the body gets dehydrated and the heart gets stressed and all of these electrolyte imbalances happen, that is what leads to the demise.
By the way, the World Health Organization, on their Web site, has a wonderful, wonderful remedy, if you will. And it's a very simple thing.
And that is some -- if you want to re-hydrate somebody in an area like this that people are being affected in, some honey, if you can get honey -- honey is accessible in very many parts of the world -- a little bit of salt and clean water.
That mixture is a wonderful hydrating thing that people can use.
KING: Any clean water there?
DESILVA: There are any clean water -- I mean, there is clean water that is now coming in. As I said before, the Sri Lanka Medical Association did purchase quite a few tablets. The water is being cleansed.
The water is getting in from the -- from various agencies. So any clean water that is available, they can use that as part of the hydration process.
KING: Let's grab a call.
Los Altos, California, hello.
First of all, I'd like to thank everyone from the U.N. for everything they do for around the world.
And second is, I wondered if Mr. Frist could answer this on behalf of the Bush administration.
It seems like we have lots of technologies available such that we would be able to quickly evaluate any situation on the ground. And it seems like, perhaps, we owe the world an apology for not using that technology and not giving as great an amount of money as we did now in the first place.
And I'll take it off the air.
KING: In other words, technologically, Bill, should we have known?
FRIST: Well, I'll tell you one thing from technology that I'm going to look at in the United States Senate because I think that with a tragedy this great, we need to go back and look at the whole range of responsibility, what could have been done.
And the whole idea of earthquake detection, avoidance, tsunami detection, which has been perfected, at least as I understand it, to date, in the Pacific Ocean, west of United States, I think that we need to put at least some seed money in, in terms of technology and look at some sort of global warning of these sorts of earthquakes would occur throughout the world. So that's one area of technology that I'm personally going to be looking at very, very closely.
In terms of our response, I again will go back and say that with technology, with humanitarian aid, with economic development, if you look over the last week, we simply -- it would have been impossible to act more responsively.
If we looked at our investment in the past, I want to make this very clear. For humanitarian efforts in disaster relief, the United States of America is number one.
If you look at all disasters, all humanitarian efforts over last year around the world, last year 40 percent came from the United States of America.
If you look at food, starvation -- in Africa, where I spend a lot of time every year, but indeed around the world -- the United States is number one of all of the starvation and disaster relief, in terms of famine relief, in food, the United States gives 60 percent of that food relief in the world. We're number one.
So, I think we're doing a lot.
FRIST: Could we do more in terms of technology, I guess we possibly could. But right now we're doing a lot.
KING: We'll take a break and be back with more on this special Sunday night edition of LARRY KING LIVE.
Don't go away.
KING: Joining us on beeper phone, from Chennai Tamil Nadu, India, is Deval Sanghavi. He is managing partner of Dasra, the nongovernmental organization working with nonprofit groups in India helping facilitate direct relief aids in that part of the world.
What's the situation there, Deval?
DEVAL SANGHAVI, MANAGING PARTNER DASRA RELIEF GROUP IN CHENNAI TAMIL NADU, INDIA: Well, the situation here has improved, actually, quite drastically over the last couple of days.
Local aid and relief has finally gotten through to various villages. And many of the relief camps, actually, have started clearing up, whereby you have villagers coming closer to their villages, setting up makeshift tents and receiving food, supplies and medical equipment closer to their village, thereby decreasing the chances of cholera and various other diseases which are spreading in the relief camps.
KING: How's the government reacting there?
SANGHAVI: The government actually has been pretty proactive in bringing in direct relief, mostly food as well as 4,000 or 5,000 Rupees per family for assistance.
That being said, they still haven't addressed longer-term issues such as livelihoods of these fisherman.
KING: And how is material getting to people? Is that happening easily? SANGHAVI: There actually -- the government as well as Dasra has partnered up with various community-based organizations. And these community-based organizations have been very successful in planning out sort of which household needs what material and giving tokens to each family, thereby ensuring that uniform distribution occurs.
That being said, in the more interior villages, the ones that are sort of further away from the highways, materials are not reaching there as quick as possible because most people want to sort of go to the villages that they see as opposed to the villages that are further away and more inconvenient to them.
KING: How are the people doing?
SANGHAVI: The people are doing much better. We actually had a meeting yesterday with fishermen from over 15 villages, and they are actually ready to go back in the water.
They were asking more about their livelihoods as opposed to the relief efforts going on right now with basic food and medicine, which is quite encouraging because they also realize that in order for them to support their families, it won't be the government or donors coming in, but the longer-term they need both fishing nets and engines so they, themselves, can take up the burden of helping their families going forward.
KING: Thank you, Deval. Deval Sanghavi reporting in India.
Jan Egeland will be leaving us in a couple of minutes, the United Nations undersecretary for humanitarian affairs. Do you plan to go to the area, Jan?
EGELAND: I will have to stay here in the operations center. But the secretary general, himself, will go to Jakarta and there launch our appeal on behalf of all of the disaster-stricken societies.
There we will be asking for hundreds of millions of dollars for -- from Somalia in the West, to Indonesia in the East. We hope that governments will still be generous. We hope the public sector will be generous. We hope private donations will keep coming because now we will not only have to help people survive the first few weeks. We will have to rebuild their societies.
And the only one who can coordinate this massive effort of nongovernmental organizations, of governments, of the local authorities, of the national authorities is the United Nations.
KING: Secretary General Kofi Annan said today this could take over a decade.
EGELAND: This could take a decade altogether. Not to make life speed good again, but to rebuild everything.
What I hope is that in the next few weeks we will be able to have everybody getting the minimum of life saving support in Sri Lanka, in India, in Thailand, in Maltese, in Somalia, we are reaching out to most and soon, I hope, to all of those in need.
In Northern Sumatra and Anacha, we still have, unfortunately, many, many days to go to reach everybody. But I'm now going in a telephone conference with a call group of nations, including the United States, where we will be talking even more about helicopters, of the hardware and of the logistics of getting this massive aid effort effective and lifesaving.
KING: Thank you, Jan. We'll be seeing you during the week. We'll be covering this, of course, every night.
Jan Egeland of the U.N., another U.N. spokesman for UNICEF will join us at the bottom of the hour.
Senator Frist, I know when you go to Africa every year, you actually do surgery. You're on hand. Do you expect you might be called upon to do some treating, on hand treating?
FRIST: Larry, usually when I go into -- whether it's at Kenya, or the Sudan, or Uganda, I do operate. I do get involved in medical care. Again, that's what I do. That's what I did for 20 years. And that's really what I am, even today.
So I will not hesitate. That's not the purpose of this mission, it's too short; but if things are short handed, absolutely. That's what I took that medical, ethical oath to do 20 years ago and would, of course, do just that.
What Deval said a few minutes ago is something we're going to all have to think about as well, is economic development. He talked about the fisheries and the fishermen returning, which to me is really heartening.
And that's one of the things I want to look at very closely as well to get these economies back. People need those jobs to get back on their feet.
KING: We'll take a break. We'll be back with more on this special Sunday night edition of LARRY KING LIVE.
Don't go away.
KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE in Washington. There's Senator Bill Frist, Senate majority leader, the first practicing physician elected to the Senate since 1928. He is board certified, by the way, in both general and cardiac surgery. Any he travels to the disaster stricken areas Tuesday.
Dr. Derrick DeSilva is in New York. He used to live in Sri Lanka, has two aunts still living there. One lives near Colombo. They had several feet of tsunami water in her home. He is an internist and is part of the attending staff Raritan Bay Medical Center. And joining us now, Aceh, Indonesia is Gordon Weiss, spokesman for UNICEF, the United Nations children's fund. Half a million people in that province on the far Northern island of Sumatra have been directly affected.
What's the update on situation there, Gordon?
GORDON WEISS, UNICEF SPOKESMAN IN ACEH, INDONESIA: Well, the situation is that the aid operation is increasing exponentially day by day.
I arrived about five days ago, Larry, and there were bodies littering every street in the city. The Indonesian army has removed most of those bodies. We've had a tremendous amount of air traffic coming into the province. And we're beginning now to shift that aid out to places where people need it.
KING: Any outbreak of any disease, yet?
WEISS: No outbreak of a major disease. What we have seen is a significant rise in diaharreal diseases and respiratory infections amongst young children and the elderly. That's a matter of concern for us, of course.
That only emphasizes the fact that one of the things we have to do most urgently is ensure clean water supplies for people who are now living in, you know, camps and various points of concentration away from their villages.
KING: Are we really, Gordon, when you get down to it, prepared for a disaster of this enormity?
WEISS: No, I think it's clear that we're not prepared for a disaster of this enormity. Not only was there not a tsunami warning system in place, but in general it's very difficult to go to people and say, hey, listen. Give us a huge amount of money just in case something happens.
I mean, you know, ask every treasury and finance minister in the world, and you're not likely to get a positive response to that.
That being said, the aid community has systems in place that take that into account. And that those systems are now being used to respond to this enormous calamity.
KING: Senator Frist, what will the role of Governor Jeb Bush of Florida be in going to the area?
FRIST: I think it's important that Secretary Powell goes. I think it's important that Jeb Bush goes. Jeb Bush has direct, hands- on experience for the catastrophes that we saw play out through Florida over the last 12 months. He has the ear of the president of the United States. It gives comfort to people to know that his brother is going, somebody who has been an effective spokesman. He's experienced at disaster relief because of the last year. That coupled with Mr. Natsios, who is overseeing the aid effort, who is traveling with him, and Secretary Powell, who the people have respect for all over the world shows the importance that this issue is to the United States of America.
It is reaching out. It's extending itself from the churches, the mosques, the NGOs, the local communities, all the way up to the highest levels of government.
KING: Dr. DeSilva, are you happy with the response?
DESILVA: I am. I am very happy with the response. I am happier with the way that the world has come together.
You know, it's unfortunate to think that these type of tragedies and calamities will bring people together. The Roman Catholic Church today in New York had, you know, had an offering today for money.
There was, I heard there was a Buddhist temple, that they had -- some of the folks in the Jewish faith had a mass with.
So I think the world is coming together. And again, I think people are basically good. And we are responding as a world, not as a nation, but we are responding as a world, which makes my heart really smile.
KING: Gordon Weiss, what about people who, around the world, in the United States, may want to adopt tsunami children?
WEISS: Well, we always say that the best place for a child is with their own family. And that's what we're concentrating on doing. UNICEF is setting up tracing centers this week to coordinate with the Indonesian government and make sure that if there are relatives alive here in Indonesia, those children are reunited with their families.
Secondarily to that, the best place for Indonesian children is with Indonesian families. We always consider international adoption a last option.
KING: Senator Frist, what do you think about that? I'll bet a many Americans would like to adopt some children who may be homeless and families dead?
FRIST: You know, I think it's a good idea. It reflects, I think, what all of us are struggling with, whether its politicians, or physicians, or bankers, or people working at the local filling station, everybody wants to do something. Everybody wants to reach out.
And it's not just in United States. It's indeed all over the world. It does capture, as we have just said, this oneness of humanity.
I think we do have to respect what is best for individuals and individual families. And I would turn to people like Mr. Weiss and others who are on the ground before proposing, at least from a legislative standpoint.
But the idea seems to be good. It's another manifestation of the goodness of the reaching out. And indeed there are a lot.
Over a third of all the survivors are orphaned in some shape or form, either one or two parents today. And you have little kids today who are looking for their parents who probably aren't alive. And of course you have the parents, the moms and the dads who, as we speak today, are looking for their children.
So in the meantime, we can hope and pray that we can pull them back together.
KING: Gordon Weiss, is there any one individual in charge of all of this?
WEISS: Yes, the Indonesian government is in charge of the aid operation and all of the assets operating inside Indonesia. Whether they are the United Nations, or they are the various militaries who are contributing, or private donors operate with the consent of the Indonesian government. So they are in charge.
KING: Dr. DeSilva, as you know the area, are you confident in their abilities to run things?
DESILVA: I absolutely believe, you know, any government obviously knows what is best for within their country. I would imagine if something like this happened in the United States, we would not expect somebody from another country to come and tell the United States government what to do.
I am not a politician, nor do I ever want to be a politician. But I will say everybody knows their own backyard better than anybody else does.
KING: Is UNICEF's number one goal, Gordon, to deal with the children of the area?
WEISS: Absolutely. That's always our primary concern. And that's what we're doing.
Now that, of course, means primarily that we have to help children and their families, at this instance. It's difficult to choose your priority in these circumstances. But primarily, they need clean water. They need food. They need to be immunized.
We're starting a measles immunization campaign this Wednesday, this week, in two day's time. And of course to try and reunite those children who have been separated from family or whose parents have been killed, to reunite them with distant relatives who live outside Aceh.
KING: Dr. Frist, it does seem enormous. Does it not?
FRIST: Larry, I lost you for a second.
FRIST: If you...
KING: Does it not seem enormous?
FRIST: Is it enormous? It is enormous. It's incomprehensibly enormous.
FRIST: But that's why -- what we just heard was so important. At that local community level, communities picking themselves up, the fishermen ready to go back out to sea to regain that livelihood.
The psychological impact -- and I'd be interested what Mr. Weiss would say, if you can ask him...
KING: He can hear you.
FRIST: What is the psychological -- Well, then I would ask him -- as a physician, we don't focus a lot on the psychological impact that a catastrophe has on either little kids or families or, of course, the parents. And that's something that will play out over the next week, the next month, the next six months, and in nightmares probably for many years.
But I would like to just to hear him comment on the psychological impact of such a tragic occurrence as we saw last week.
KING: Excellent point.
WEISS: Yes, it's absolutely overwhelming. I mean those people who were not killed are deeply traumatized.
The -- there were about 2,000 policemen in this province. Seventy-five percent of those were killed. The 25 percent who were left were basically incapable of working. They had lost their families. They didn't want to work.
Same with medical staff, same with teaching staff, let alone poor fishermen, who have somehow managed to trek their way from the isolated West Coast into, inland to IDP camps, where they are now sitting.
I was interviewing these people over the last few days to try and assess the impact of the wave on their lives. And these people are breaking down crying. And they're really incapable of thinking beyond just pondering the fact that they have survived.
KING: Thank you.
Gordon Weiss, spokesman for UNICEF, who will be leaving us now.
When we come back, Matthew Chance will check in from Phuket, Thailand, and Senator Frist, and Dr. DeSilva will remain.
Don't go away.
KING: These -- what you're watching now is elephants being put to good use for transportation purposes of supplies -- a lot of elephants there. And they fit the bill very well.
Joining us now from Phuket, Thailand is Matthew Chance.
What's the latest there, Matthew?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Larry, you can see those elephants are contributing whatever they can to the efforts to recover some of bodies that are still strewn around this holiday island in Southern Thailand.
The relief effort here, the reconstruction effort and all that is going relatively well compared to the other countries in the region which are, of course, overwhelmed.
Thailand didn't have the same scale of problems here. Its infrastructure, its roads, its telephone lines, et cetera have remained pretty much intact.
Nevertheless, it does have at least 5,000 people confirmed dead, another 6,500 people are missing, many of those foreign tourists. In fact, there's a figure here, 3,000 of them are actually tourists, the missing tourists from Sweden.
So they have a particular pressure to find those bodies, to identify those remains and get them back to their countries of origin, to their families there. And so, they are putting a lot of effort into that side of things, Larry.
KING: Matthew, are tourists coming back?
CHANCE: Well, I mean, tourists are at no way near the kind of levels that they were before the tsunami struck. This is the busiest time, of course, in Thailand, for tourism. You know, most of the income generated on the island is generated in these three months over the holiday period on either side of it.
But yet, certainly some of the tourists that weren't directly affected by the tsunami have stayed on to finish their vacations. Surprisingly, perhaps, I have seen many plane loads of tourists keep coming in, as well, because not every resort, of course, was destroyed by the wave.
Some on the other side of the island are still operating, and they are still attracting tourists to them.
KING: Doesn't that surprise you?
CHANCE: It does. And I can understand why it looks pretty odd. And I've spoken to many of these people as they have arrived and asked them, you know, why on Earth would you come here when there are so many thousands of people dead and there's this kind of disaster which has wrecked some of the most beautiful beached on the island, some of the tourist destinations.
And what they have said, Larry, is that, you know, I think it would be more damaging for us not to come to Thailand than for us to stay away. They kind of want to sort of continue a commitment to the country. They want to show that they can help by providing their money, at least, in tourism, for that to be their contribution.
KING: Joining us by beeper (ph) phone from Sri Lanka is Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne. He is executive director of Savodaya. That's the nongovernmental community development organization working with Direct Relief International.
The word Savodaya was coined by Mahatma Gandhi to mean the welfare of all.
What does your organization do, Dr. Ari?
DR. VINYA ARIYARATNE, EXEC. DIRECTOR, SARVODAYA RELIEF GROUP IN SRI LANKA: From the moment we heard about the disaster, that is 26th morning, we immediately converted all our centers around the country into relief centers. And we started operations on 26th evening, itself.
When things like this happen, we have what is called a short, midterm, and long-term program, relief first, rehabilitation, reconciliation, reconstruction and what we call reawakening, that is the final phase.
So we started with relief first. We sent all the rice (ph), medicines, medical teams, volunteers to all the affected areas and went into action. And I personally visited the southern ports (ph). And I went right up to the north to Sri Lanka, (untranslated) and then the area which is controlled by the LTP (ph) (untranslated) area and met the leaders and the relief workers and coordinated all the activities with them as we worked with the government and other organizations.
Now we are in full swing.
KING: Sarvodaya deals with -- by the way, they have a Web site. If you want more information...
KING: Its www.Sarvodaya.org.
You also deal with emotional problems, right?
ARIYARATNE: Yes, yes we have teams going into those areas and trying to bring about a kind of psychological approach to make the people understand the reality and get over the shock and then get into action to rehabilitate themselves with outside help. So being the oldest organization in the country, 48 years old, we are able to handle this better than I think most organizations. We cooperate with the government, and one special thing we have undertaken is to care of all the children below 18 years of age.
We can have them in temporary shelters at the moment. Of course, we do it with the government. The government has to provision (ph) department and the child protection authorities who work with us. So with their permission, we are able to take care of all the children.
And we have appealed to local as well as international groups to help us do this. These are permanent (ph), long-term things.
We look after everybody affected. Then we are starting a housing scheme (ph). At the moment, we need a lot of, to prevent disease and all that, we need things like temporary toilets.
And we are cleaning wells, so we have got some water...
KING: I'm going to...
KING: Let me -- I'm going to -- thank you very much Dr. Ari. I'm going to repeat the Web site again. If you want more information on it, www.Sarvodaya.org.
And thank you Matthew Chance and Dr. Ari.
And when we come back, we'll check it with Senator Frist and Dr. DeSilva and some more comments on this tragedy that CNN is staying with 24 hours a day.
Don't go away.
KING: Before we get some final thoughts from Senator Frist, before he leaves for the area on Tuesday, and Dr. DeSilva, let's check in by phone with Ian Wilderstin in Bangkok, Thailand. He is head of the disaster risk management unit for the Southeast Asia for IFRC.
That's the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.
What is Red Crescent? And what does your organization do, Ian?
IAN WILDERSTIN, INTL. FEDERATION OF RED CROSS AND RED CRESCENT IN BANGKOK, THAILAND: We are the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, so we have our membership amongst national societies in all the countries, including those affected right now.
So we work to support our membership here in Thailand but also, of course, in Indonesia, and Miramar and Malaysia. These are the countries that I'm responsible for. KING: What is Red Crescent?
WILDERSTIN: Red Crescent is a part of the -- a part of the movement. They are a national society working in Islamic countries in the world.
KING: And what specifically are you doing with regard to the victims there?
Ian WILDERSTIN: Well, in the countries in which we're working, and of course the primary focus at the moment is on Indonesia. We're working alongside the governments, the U.N. agencies, the INGO's (ph) at the moment, to bring immediate emergency need support to those affected.
And that's everything from support and medical care, portable water supplies, shelter, food, et cetera, but also looking now increasingly to the medium and longer term needs of people in the affected areas -- rehabilitation, re-establishment of livelihoods, reconstruction.
KING: Do you plan to be there a long time?
Ian WILDERSTIN: We plan -- well we are there all the time. The national societies have a presence in all of these countries. And many of the societies have been there for a very many years.
And this work will continue for a very, very long time. This is just the beginning. And the national societies in the region are doing a great job with international assistance coming in from many expert teams from around the globe.
In Indonesia, we have half a dozen different teams. These are self-contained teams working alongside the national societies' staff and volunteers. And these volunteers and the national society, for example, in Indonesia, the PMI (ph) has been out there from the beginning working day at night to provide support to those affected.
KING: Thank you, Ian. Ian Wilderstin of IFRC, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.
Senator Frist, where do you go first? How do you plan this -- where you go and itinerary?
FRIST: Yes, Larry, I will leave Tuesday night and will be going into Colombo, initially. And from there, we'll be moving Southeast.
Most of the damage done in Sri Lanka is east of there, three or four hour drive, or short flight. And we'll be going there. I don't know exactly what the location will be.
When we go to India, we'll go into New Delhi, and then we'll go down to the Southeast along the coast where most of the damage was done there.
It will be an instructive trip. I hope to learn a lot, to be able to come back, share with my colleagues, to be able to follow the leadership of the president and continue a very bold response that all Americans can be proud of.
KING: Will you come on this program when you come back?
FRIST: Yes, I would love to, Larry, because I'm going to learn a lot. The whole reason for me to go is to assess but also to learn.
The earlier caller, what should we have done that we could have done? How can we participate in economic development long term? Should we have a health care, a global health core to go out and address the issues we talked about today?
Malaria, cholera, these are the sort of things that I'm thinking through that I hope to learn about when I go and to come back. And whether we legislate it not if not -- or not -- we'll be able to at least act and consider the suggestions that come forth.
KING: Dr. DeSilva, are you generally optimistic that we're going to get a hold of this?
DESILVA: I am very optimistic. I am not generally optimistic, I'm very optimistic.
I think the one thing that, the theme that I've been hearing through the program today and over the past day is that we have to keep in mind the psychological aspects that are going to be, that are going to be confronting everybody within all of these areas.
Yes, the diseases are paramount. And that's very -- that's number one in our mind. But let's not forget some of the emotional and psychological things that are going to come into play over these next couple of weeks, months and perhaps years.
KING: By the way, we do want to thank Direct Relief International, who aided us tonight in connecting with various guests by phone and on camera, that we check with around the world and in the region.
Senator Frist, we hope you have a very successful trip. We hope you come back with loads of information to help this country. That's a steep role you're taking on.
FRIST: Well, Larry, thank you. And again, your program, I think, captured the rich partnership of governments working with nongovernment organizations, working with charitable organizations, and you've captured that.
And that beauty, that spirit coming together, that support coming together, the United States working with other countries, working with charitable groups, really gives me a great deal of hope as well.
KING: Safe journey. Thank you very much.
FRIST: Thank you. KING: And thank you all very much for being with us on this special Sunday night edition of LARRY KING LIVE. I'll be back again tomorrow night with more.
Stay tuned for more coverage around the clock on CNN.
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