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Tsunami Disaster

Aired January 4, 2005 - 21:00   ET


GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: To put it in perspective, thousands of people lost their lives here from all over the world, half of them from Thailand, half of them from the rest of the world. It was more than the number of people that were killed on September 11th.


LARRY KING, HOST: The scope of the tsunami devastation starts to set in, as the death toll keeps climbing and now tops 155,000. More than 94,000 of them in Indonesia alone. More than 46,000 in Sri Lanka. And out of those staggering numbers, amazing individual stories of rescue and survival.

Tonight, the Alabama councilman who watched helplessly as a woman was swept away, but saved her little boy. The former Army Special Ops soldier who cheated death at a Thai resort paradise. The vacationing couple who rescued a toddler, now reunited with his dad. And the latest on supermodel Petra Nemcova, who hung on to a tree for dear life for eight hours, with a broken pelvis, after the wave of death took away her boyfriend. All that and more next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Before we talk with Faith Kates, with the tsunami death toll now estimated at 155,000, we thought we'd give you a little perspective tonight on exactly how staggering that number is. The number of dead is now roughly the same as the populations of several United States cities, like Huntsville, Alabama, Tempe, Arizona, Ontario, California, Salinas, California, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, Tallahassee, Florida, Kansas City, Kansas, Springfield, Massachusetts, Syracuse, New York and Chattanooga, Tennessee.

We begin in New York with Faith Kates, the agent for supermodel and tsunami survivor Petra Nemcova. She's the owner and founder of the Next Modeling Agency. When's the last time you spoke with her, Faith?

FAITH KATES, PETRA NEMCOVA'S AGENT: I spoke with her yesterday.

KING: How's she doing?

KATES: She's still beaten up. She's -- you know, as you know, she's got a broken pelvis, and she's in a lot of pain physically and a lot of pain mentally as well.

KING: Was this a very serious relationship with the young man who's missing?

KATES: Yes. She's been with him for two years.

KING: So this is both physically painful and emotionally devastating.

KATES: Emotionally devastating. I mean, right now we're trying to get her better and well enough to go home to her parents in Czechoslovakia. But in a funny way she wants to stay in Thailand, because she's hoping with all of her heart that she's going to find Simon.

KING: Is her -- she lives in Czechoslovakia?

KATES: Well, she lives in New York, but her family lives in Czechoslovakia.

KING: She was the front cover of "Sports Illustrated," right? The last swimsuit issue.

KATES: Two swimsuit issues ago, yes.

KING: She also posed for that photo in the hospital for "US Weekly." How did that come about?

KATES: Well, we had been getting a lot of phone calls asking for a picture, and we had found out there were some paparazzi stalking the hospital. And Petra thought it would be a great idea to take a picture, so everybody could see that she was OK and she was alive, and that she could donate all the proceeds to a charity that would help some children. So we set that up, and the picture is generating a lot of money, and she's going to give all the money to UNICEF.

KING: It was not a professional photographer, right?

KATES: No. Not at all.

KING: Just taken by a non-professional with a digital camera.

KATES: It was taken by somebody that works for me in my office in New York who's there with Petra, and she just snapped the picture.

KING: Is it true that paparazzi were surrounding the hospital and maybe offering like $200,000 to get in?

KATES: That's what we hear. We had to post guards outside the door of both her room and in front of the hospital entrance and exits, because it was getting crazy.

KING: Now, what are the -- she wants to stay there. Her family and you would like her to go home. What's going to happen?

KATES: She's going to go home. We're actually waiting now. They're going to medevac her home in the next 48 hours.

KING: Is the hope for her boyfriend dim? KATES: Well, as we say, you know, it's never dim, but it's not looking real good.

KING: And her latest, give us the latest on the physical injuries. What did she sustain, and how's she doing with them?

KATES: Well, she's got a broken pelvis, and according to the doctors it's about three months of recovery, and she's got some fractured bones in her hip. But Petra's so lucky to be alive. I don't know if you know this, Larry, but when they found her she was the only person they found alive on the beach. They found 300 people, and she was the only person they found alive.

KING: And she, what, hung on to -- what did she do?

KATES: Well, when the first wave hit, it broke the window in her room, in her bungalow, and it sucked her through the window, and that was the last time she saw Simon. And she said she went under about two or three more times, and she doesn't know how, but she wound up hugging this tree. And Petra's such a positive person that she just -- I guess the power of her energy that she has just let her hang on there.

KING: And she hung on for eight hours?

KATES: She hung on for eight hours. There's a bigger -- I guess God had a bigger place for her, because let me tell you, I don't know how she did it.

KING: And as I understand it, she must have watched people die.

KATES: She did. She said that what really, really got to Petra the most I think out of this whole thing was when she was holding on, there was nothing she could do and she kept seeing children, the bodies of children just float by. And the one thing Petra is all about is children. So it was devastating to her.

KING: Give her our best, and thank you, Faith.

KATES: Thank you.

KING: Faith Kates, who is the owner and founder of the Next Modeling Agency, the agency that employs the tsunami survivor Petra Nemcova.

Again, we want to repeat that number we gave you last night, the Web site number, when the presidents were on. It's www.usafreedomcorps, one word, Go to that on the Web, and it will give you information for making contributions. A long list of reputable charitable organizations and agencies. Other information as well.

Let's go now to Colombo, Sri Lanka, where Satinder Bindra is standing by. She (sic) is CNN's New Delhi bureau chief. What's the latest on the situation there, Satinder?


KING: Can you hear me OK?

BINDRA: OK. I hear Larry King now. Hang on.

KING: What's the latest you can tell us from Colombo?

Well, we're having a little difficulty with Satinder. Let's take a break and come back with more. Don't go away.


KING: You're looking at the now famous wall of missing children in Phuket, Thailand. And joining us from Phuket now is Rebecca Bedall and Ron Rubin. They are both tsunami survivors, and they found that little Swedish toddler alone after the tsunami hit. The little boy later reunited with his father. Ron, what were you doing in Phuket?

RON RUBIN, SURVIVED TSUNAMI IN THAILAND: We were vacationing. And we were up actually in Khao Lak, which is a little north of Phuket, just on a -- you know, on our winter break vacation.

KING: From -- where do you live in the States?

RUBIN: We're from Seattle, Washington.

KING: Obviously, you were having a good time. That's a beautiful area. Rebecca, what happened when it hit? Where were you? What happened?

REBECCA BEDALL, SURVIVED TSUNAMI IN THAILAND: Well, we were in Khao Lak, like Ron said, and we were sleeping in our hotel room. It was about 10:30 in the morning, sleeping on the second floor. And we were awoken (ph) by what sounded like an explosion and which was actually the first floor of our hotel being wiped out from underneath of us. And we were -- we managed to climb to the roof. Ron grabbed me, pulled me to the roof while the second floor got wiped out underneath of us, and we just -- we sat on the roof and watched the rest of the hotels and everything around us collapse.

KING: Ron, how long were you on the roof?

RUBIN: Well, we really can't be certain. But you know, we think it was probably around an hour to an hour and a half. You know, whereas we didn't see the first wave, we saw the second wave, and the second wave was bigger than the first, and it brought everything that had been swept out to sea back in to sea. So there were cars that had floated out into the ocean that were now slamming into our hotel. There was people floating by holding on to things. And our hotel, like Rebecca said was all the way up until the second -- 40 feet. The water rose like a bathtub up to around 40 feet in 300 yards, and we were up on the roof watching for what seemed like an eternity, but it was probably around an hour and a half before we made a run for it.

KING: Now, Rebecca, how did you come across the young toddler? BEDALL: We came across him up in the mountains, as we're calling it, the highest point that we could possibly climb to when we actually did make a run for it. We found him in this construction site of a bungalow, and he was laying with a group of Thai people who were watching him at that point. He was all wrapped in blankets. That's where I first saw him.

KING: And how then did you know what to do with him? Did you take him? How did he -- I know his mother died. How did he get to his -- how did that -- give us the logistics.

BEDALL: Sure. Yes, I did -- I went over and sat with him. I realized after a while that he was with Thai people, and so I went over and tried to figure out if his parents were around, what was going on. He was -- it seemed like he was going in and out of consciousness. So I was just trying to keep him cool, give him water, wake him up a little bit, trying to talk to him, seeing what language he spoke, just trying to figure out anything that we could at that point. But basically, I just -- I just held him and cuddled him for the day. It was probably about five hours before we could actually get him to a hospital.

KING: Is that where he was reunited?

BEDALL: No. No, he wasn't until -- he was worked on at the hospital for about four hours, and then they took him to intensive care, actually in Phuket, which is two hours away from where it all happened. And I don't think it was until at least two or three days later that they knew that his father was OK and he was in a hospital about three hours away from him. And then they were reunited, maybe three or four days after the actual event.

KING: Did you meet the father, and did you find a special bonding with him, Rebecca?

BEDALL: I didn't get to meet him. I met the uncle, who had flown in -- he saw the picture of the baby on the Internet. He flew from Sweden to the hospital. And so we did get to meet him. And we did get to meet the grandmother, who was actually also in the wave. She had broke her arm and had a punctured lung, I think. And so I got to meet her. She was crying, very grateful when we met. The father was actually in surgery. He had some infected wounds. So we weren't able to meet him.

KING: Ron, why are you still there? Why don't you go home?

RUBIN: Well, Larry, you know, when we were standing on the roof, we went through a whole range of emotions obviously in the first couple moments, we thought they were our last. As it became clear that we were going to live, I thought about that saying, you know, to those that are -- to those that are given much, much is expected, or something like that.

And you know, immediately we wanted to help in any way we could, but we -- you know, we had to find clothes and get some money. So now that we've done that, we've been up to one of the temples that we're acting as a, you know, morgue and Rebecca actually carried bodies, which was -- you know, I was so proud of her for doing that. And I carried coffins. And we just helped out any way we could.

We've been going to the city center, which is where the volunteers gather, where we've met other Americans, and we've put our name on a list to volunteer. And at this point we've determined that the way we can help most is -- our friends back home, our friends and associates are collecting money, and they're wiring it to us. And we're just going directly back to the area that we found Hannes (ph) at and distributing small amounts of money to the people that lost everything. The Thai people have been so gracious to us at every step of the way.

KING: Does that mean, Rebecca, that you're going to stay indefinitely?

BEDALL: No, not indefinitely. We're really just taking it day by day at this point. But our plan right now is to stay at least a week or two and like Ron said go deliver small amounts of money directly to the people whose homes have been washed away.

RUBIN: Larry, we owe a lot, we owe everything to the people of Thailand. They have been so gracious to us. They gave us clothes. They gave us food and water. When we were in the hospital with Hannes (ph) the night we took him there, it was a war zone. You know, there was blood on the ground. I was walking around, and one of the Thai nurses came up to me and offered me her shoes. And we can tell you a thousand stories about how the people of Thailand have been so kind and so gracious to us. Not only us but to all the foreign tourists here. And we want to get the message out. In the days and weeks and months to come we want the people to come to Thailand and support these people that have, you know, lost their livelihood because they're some of the best people in the world and we just really want to say thank you to Thailand.

KING: Colin Powell and Jeb Bush were both in Phuket today. Rebecca, did you see them?

BEDALL: No. I have no idea where they are. Phuket's a pretty big place. So I'm not sure.

KING: We salute you both. It's an incredible story. When you get back home, we hope to see you on the shores of the United States. Congratulations.

RUBIN: Thank you very much.

BEDALL: Thank you.

KING: Rebecca Bedall and Ron Rubin.

Joining us now we can check in in Colombo, Sri Lanka with Satinder Bindra. Satinder, what's the latest you can tell us on the situation there?

BINDRA: Larry, the latest here is that an exhaustive and intensive U.S. relief effort is now under way. I'm standing at the Colombo International Airport. And as you can see just over my shoulder a U.S. C-17 transport aircraft has just landed. This aircraft is carrying 20 marines. It's also carrying two Air Force helicopters, HS-60s. In a matter of hours they'll become part of this relief effort. And just yesterday, Larry, right here we saw a large transporter, C-5, bring in a lot of relief material, reconstruction material, water purification plants.

So clearly the Americans are now beginning to drive this relief effort. And they are telling us that it will have about 900 to 1,200 marines on the ground here shortly. One U.S. ship will arrive in the harbor. 12 helicopters will be deployed. And also the Americans will be using the latest technology. They'll be using a hovercraft to help the people of Sri Lanka.

Just yesterday, a U.S. helicopter reached the southern city of Galle. This, Larry, has been the worst affected area, with several thousand dead there, with tens of thousands homeless. And these people came up to the U.S. helicopter to receive their first shipment of U.S. aid. It was an emotional moment, Larry, both for the crew and for those people in Galle who suffered just so much.

KING: Thank you, Satinder Bindra. Excellent report on the scene in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

When we come back, two heroes. Don't go away.


KING: Two very interesting stories. In Atlanta, Steven Foster, tsunami survivor, Army veteran, was in Special Ops. In Phuket on holiday with friends. In Huntsville, Alabama, Glenn Watson, councilman for the city of Huntsville, Alabama, who saved the life of a little boy. Also, he is a tsunami survivor, was vacationing in Phuket as well.

Stephen, this was just you and a bunch of guys having fun? Was that the purpose of going on this trip?

STEVEN FOSTER, FORMER ARMY SPECIAL OPS SOLDIER: Yes, Larry, it was. I'd went over and met some friends of mine, and we were -- had been diving. I probably dove the last three days in a row. Was planning on leaving that morning. And so I just -- I just didn't go with them. They'd asked me do I want to go, and I said, I may meet you, but I don't think I probably will. I'd been over in August and fell in love with the place. It was -- it's literally -- it was the most beautiful place you'd ever seen in your life.

KING: Did -- where was the last place you served in military action?

FOSTER: Actually, when I got out the last time, I got out in Ft. Ord, California, but I'd been involved in a couple of the actions from '88 through early '92, and I worked -- I've also worked as a contractor and adviser over the last couple of years.

KING: Glenn Watson, what were you doing there?

GLENN WATSON, HUNTSVILLE, ALABAMA COUNCILMAN: I was in Kamala Bay, which is about five miles from Patong Beach, which was the most destructed area. I was in my room on the first floor -- it was a condo-type room -- and I heard a lot of yelling. I went outside and said, what's the matter, what's going on? And they said, "tidal wave." And I said what's a -- you know, what do you do when somebody says tidal wave? Out of the clear blue, 64 years old, never heard the word before.

It didn't take me long to look up and see what a tidal wave was. And I started running trying to get to high ground. And the thing -- the first wave was about a foot and a half, and it caught me, knocked me down. And then the second wave, which wasn't very far behind it, it was about five foot, 5 1/2 feet, and it was turbulent water, just destroyed everything on the ground floor, was carrying everything with it.

I grabbed onto the railing and tried to get into a position where I could get in between the two railings and maybe give myself a chance to get up the stairs, but the water was just throwing me around like a rag doll.

Well, I grabbed the other railing, and about that time I saw the two -- the mother and her child coming -- just coming out of control, completely out of control, and I was close enough to be able to grab him. I grabbed him by his right arm and pulled him in close to me, and the water was trying to rip him away, and the water was trying to rip me all over, and I just held on with everything I had. I didn't -- we were underwater probably eight or 10 seconds at one time. And...

KING: What happened to the mother?

WATSON: She went by. She made one look over at me. And I don't know if she was looking at me or her son. But I remember seeing that face. It was only for a second. And I'll see that face the rest of my life. I couldn't help her. I couldn't -- all I -- I had all I could do then to keep the boy and myself above water, which wasn't -- I wasn't being very successful.

KING: Steven, what happened to you?

FOSTER: I was actually in my room when it happened, and a loud crashing sound, something like I'd never heard before. When the wave went back out and it created a vacuum, I knew that -- I thought it was a bomb at first, and then I knew automatically, I said this is something I've never experienced.

Got out of my room, which was pretty much destroyed. I mean, there wasn't any reason to stay there anymore. The roof was messed up. Got down to the beach and had met up with some other people I'd met, some Australians. We went down -- and I could have left. And I just -- you've seen the people. And I mean, it was unbelievable, the destruction. Nothing man-made could even compare to it. We went down and were helping some people up. I mean, they were just cut and scarred and scratched up like you wouldn't believe.

And we were down there for I don't know how long it was. It seemed for quite a while, actually. And all of a sudden, the Australian guy was standing there -- the birds flew, the dogs kind of snapped to attention like they were pointing to a bird or something. They took and ran back up the street. And my friend grabbed me and said, let's go. And we took off and ran back up the street and was trying to get people to go, probably ran about 50 or 60 yards. And when I got back -- I looked back over my shoulder, and there was 12 to 15 feet of water where I had just been standing. The difference in -- really the difference -- the best way I can describe it, the difference in being here and not being here, it's not a matter of who or what you were, it was just where you were actually standing.

KING: Luck.

FOSTER: Exactly. I guess luck's the word.

KING: We'll be right back with Steven Foster and Glenn Watson on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


KING: We're back with Steven Foster. He's in Atlanta. Tsunami survivor, army veteran, was in special ops. And Glenn Watson, tsunami survivor, who saved the life of that little boy. Councilman from Huntsville, Alabama. Glenn, did you think you were going to die?

WATSON: Yes. For a little while there, Larry, I was under water, the boy was under water, and I couldn't -- didn't have the physical strength to pull up to get above the water. But the water was rampaging. It wasn't a smooth rush. It was up and down. And it grabbed -- occasionally I'd get a chance to breathe, and I'd put the kid up. And the two Thai guys reached down and wanted to take my hand, and I knew they couldn't hold me and the boy. So I said get the boy. And they reached down and they got him, and I made sure they had a good grip on him. And then a little bit later they came back down and helped me get up. But for a while there I thought I was gone. I almost let go because I was under water, and I said, well, I'll get up higher in the water. But if I let go I'd have been gone. There's no way I could have fought that water.

KING: Did you follow up on what happened to the boy?

WATSON: No. I know they took him to the hospital. He hurt his leg -- I don't know how badly. But it was enough to cause him a lot of pain. And I never -- there was all hectic from then on. There was so many people hurt, so many people injured and dead, really. I think one of the things that helped me hold on was a dead person floated by at a kind of high rate of speed, and then I said I'm not going to let go, I'm going to stay here no matter what happens. But it was a horrible thing, and when it was over the sight of that community and to see the damage that was done and the dead people all over the place was just a horrible experience, Larry.

KING: How old was the boy, Glenn? WATSON: I'd say about 7. I judge it based on my grandchildren. My granddaughter Crawford (ph) is 7 years old. And he was about the size of her. So I based it on that.

KING: And you'll never get the face of the mother out of your head, will you?

WATSON: No. That's the one thing that really bothers me the most, Larry. I keep seeing that face. And when all this is over and I get back to some semblance of life, I'll still not forget the look on her face. And it was just a second, just a split second that I had to look at her, but I think she knew I had her boy, and maybe that gave her some comfort. I don't know.

KING: Steven, I know you have some medical training. Were you able to use it?

FOSTER: Yes. I -- very limited, you know, just basic stuff. And we helped the way we -- what I could do. But actually, one of the gentlemen that I actually linked up, our group grew to about 17, 18 people probably, and we ended up with children that we didn't even know and other people. And he was an Australian medic in the Vietnam era, and he was -- I seen him do some pretty amazing things, which really helped me. And another gentleman there had his son and two of his buddies, and they're probably 17 or 18 years old. And a couple hours before that, the most important thing in their life was playing in the water and chasing girls, and I watched them become some pretty -- pretty good men in a couple hours there. And at that age I don't know if I could have grown up as much as they did and become the human beings I seen them become.

KING: Is it true, Steven, you thought the United States embassy could have done more than it did?

FOSTER: Yes. That was probably the two -- I had two separate incidences that I was really disappointed, and that was one of them. I know for a fact we have enough people and the embassy in Bangkok is huge. You know, it's a huge facility. And I thought they could have really -- let's get our people, let's get them out. And it would have even relieved the pressure there. I got to the airport in Bangkok and they were actually non-existent. I couldn't find them.

KING: And what was the other instance?

FOSTER: We heard about the king's grandson had been missing, and I heard at one time there was a 500-person search party out looking for him. And I never seen any -- I didn't see any -- anybody helping the actual people who were hurt. But that's Thai culture. And you know, you go to the other side of the world, and you don't get what you get here at home. But the Thai people are -- they're a beautiful people and beautiful culture. But I believe their culture is going to be a bit of a problem in the relief effort.

KING: Glenn, I know you're a Rotarian, and I'm a lifetime honorary member of Rotary International. I think I'm speaking at the international convention. They're joining a lot in this relief effort, aren't they?

WATSON: I'm hoping that's going to be the case, Larry. I've had an awful lot of people wanted to give me money to give to them. But I want to make sure that they have a system in place to accept the money and then get it throughout the whole United States. And I've talked to some Rotarians in Bangkok. And hopefully if it does work out we can get significant amounts of money. And anybody that's been over there, he's right. The Thai people are just the greatest people in the world. They're just so gentle and so willing to help. And they need help now. They need our help really bad. And I hope -- I know the people in the United States are going to do it. I know now that the United States has responded with the helicopters and everything. So it's going to be OK because I've talked with them on e-mail today and they told me they already have electric power on the front road in Kamala Bay (ph), which is almost unbelievable.

KING: And Steven, I guess you never saw anything in combat to compare to this.

FOSTER: To be honest with you, there's nothing manmade. Like I said, I've got some pretty bad images that I've brought back with me that I'm going to have to deal with. I've got five friends who aren't coming back. And -- but that -- you know, they were actually doing something that they loved to do. And I can't complain about that. I'm going to always miss them, and some of their families I've known and am kind of close with. But it's a total different experience and there's nothing that you can compare the two with.

KING: These five friends all lost their lives?

FOSTER: They were diving that morning and they were on a real shallow spot. For the 2 1/2 days I was there before I decided it was time to go, I searched, the hotel where two of them were staying was totally destroyed. They were probably 20, 30 foot down on a reef. They were absolutely probably in the worst place they could have been when the wave actually came.

KING: Thank you. Steven Foster in Atlanta, Glenn Watson in Huntsville, Alabama. And again, if you want to aid and help, just go on your website to www.USAfreedomcorps, that's one word, USAfreedomcorps, there you see it on the screen, .gov. Last night presidents Clinton and Bush were with us. We discussed that at length.

Let's go to Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where Atika Shubert is standing by. What's the latest on relief efforts there, Atika?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Larry, relief efforts are continuing, but they're painfully slow because the infrastructure here is just completely overwhelmed. You have to forgive me, I'm yelling a bit because I'm actually right on the airstrip here where you can see behind me a New Zealand plane is off-loading some of its materials. But more importantly, this is the area where the Navy seahawk helicopters land to pick up relief goods so they can start off-loading them to the hard-hit west coast of Aceh. They are a critical lifeline because they're the only kind of aircraft that can get into those areas where there are survivors and the most devastated part of this region. So they're really a critical element of this relief effort.

KING: And I'm told, Atika, there are fears about possible exploitation of tsunami -- of the tsunami disaster by child traffickers and the government is barring people from leaving the province with children under the age of 16? What can you tell us about that?

SHUBERT: Well, it is a concern here because there are so many children that have been left orphans, and trying to unite them with their families really could be an almost impossible task because so many people have been killed and may never be identified. And a lot of those children, we'll just simply never know what exactly happened to their parents. There's a lot of nationalist pride here in Indonesia. And particularly in this region of Aceh, which is a very proud Muslim culture. And that also plays a factor into it. And obviously, a lot of sensitivity here on religion, on culture, making sure that those children, if they are left orphans or able first if they can be reunited with their families and then adopted into a family if not, that's sensitive to their needs.

KING: Thank you, Atika. Atika Shubert at Banda Aceh, Indonesia.

When we come back, a panel will assemble, and we'll discuss the aftermath of tsunami. A continuing saga of tragedy. Don't go away.


KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE, in Washington, Marty Evans, the president and CEO of the American Red Cross. In New York, Dan Toole, UNICEF's director of emergency programs. Also in New York, Dr. Roshini Rajapaksa, who was vacationing in Sri Lanka when the tsunami struck. She pitched in with emergency medical needs in the aftermath. She's a physician, specializes in gastroentorology and internal medicine. She's on the faculty at NYU's School of Medicine. Another visit from Dr. Derrick DeSilva, who used to live in Sri Lanka, has two aunts still living there. He's an internist, and he's part of the attending staff at Raratan Bay Medical Center. And by phone from Colombo, Sri Lanka is Ted Chaiban, UNICEF representative.

Start with Marty Evans, the American Red Cross. What's the latest you can tell us about the Red Cross efforts here?

MARTY EVANS, PRESIDENT, CEO, AMERICAN RED CROSS: Well, the Red Cross is a global network, and literally around the world Red Crosses in other countries are springing into action. We have a coordinated effort mounted. The American Red Cross is actually on the scene in Sri Lanka. We have team members in Indonesia. We're working with the Indian Red Cross. We're working in the Maldives. So we're adding our technical expertise, our experience, significant experience in disaster response, to the international effort.

KING: Do you plan to go there, Marty?

EVANS: Well, not for the immediate couple of weeks, but I think in the future there may be some opportunities. I think the important thing happening right now is the urgency of the on-the-ground work. We're working through the International Red Cross movement headquarters in Geneva, and they have people on the ground that are relaying back to us information, as well as our own people calling back with information.

KING: Dan Toole, what do you hear from your sources around of how UNICEF is doing?

DAN TOOLE, UNICEF'S DIRECTOR OF EMERGENCY PROGRAMS: I think we're doing pretty well. We really have four main areas where we're trying to move forward. First is to keep kids alive. And that's about providing water, providing adequate sanitation, providing soap. Second is to protect those kids who've been separated from their parents and make sure that they're cared for.

Third, and that's something you heard about earlier on this show really, is to ensure that we don't have this sexual exploitation. Situations like this are a little bit like looting, when the lights go out in New York City, and now it's really hard to turn the lights back on. So we've got to make sure that we stop people, we prevent the sexual exploitation.

Finally, we're working on getting schools started, because there's nothing better for normalcy than the pattern of schooling, to get kids back into that pattern, to get parents back into that pattern. We're working in all of the countries.

KING: Ted Chaiban, the UNICEF representative on the scene in Colombo. Can you back up what Dan said? How are you doing there?

TED CHAIBAN, UNICEF: Absolutely. UNICEF was part of the response since the beginning here in Sri Lanka, and very much focused initially on shelter items, clothing, plastic sheeting, getting water to the people who are displaced. I think now we're really looking at two immediate priorities -- first is getting sanitation into the displaced camp, to make sure that there's no disease outbreak and that the population is stabilized where they are in these temporary shelters, places like schools and temples, dotted around the affected areas of the country.

But also making sure that children are prevented from exploitation. And that means registering unaccompanied children, tracing their families, and trying to reunite them with extended family members, or arranging for a different type of fostering arrangements. This should be possible for the majority of children in Sri Lanka.

KING: Dr. Rajapaksa, who was vacationing in Sri Lanka. What was it like? Where were you when you were hit?

DR. ROSHINI RAJAPAKSA, NYU MEDICAL CENTER: I was in Colombo, which is the capital, in a hotel right by the ocean, actually. But luckily our area was not affected at all. So I didn't hear about it until about I would say half an hour later, when a friend called and said, there's something happening down south, it sounds like a tidal wave. We immediately turned on the TV, and just slowly reports started leaking through that something major was going on.

KING: Did you head right there?

RAJAPAKSA: We didn't head right there right away, because like I said, the reports were very sketchy. At first, it didn't seem that it affected that many people. I think because so much communication was down in the affected areas. But as we heard that the scale of this thing was increasing, we really tried to figure out what can we do to help.

KING: And what did you do?

RAJAPAKSA: Well, we first contacted doctors that we knew were working in Sri Lanka, and one of these doctors, he organizes medical missions -- actually on a routine basis to sort of remote areas in Sri Lanka where people need help -- so he had already started mobilizing teams going out to the most affected areas. We first spoke to him about what was needed. He gave us lists of certain medical supplies, which we then transmitted to our contacts back in New York, to try to get them to start organizing sending urgently needed supplies over.

And then we asked him where can we go, what can we do. He gave us a list of different, very makeshift health centers that had sprung up across the country, and gave us some choices of where to go. And basically, my family and another family that also had two doctors, we rented a van, and we headed out to that area.

KING: Dr. DeSilva, what do you hear from your two aunts in Colombo?

DR. DERRICK DESILVA, PHYSICIAN: Well, my father has been in touch with one of them, and she says that things are about the same. There -- you know, she wasn't really affected. And the other one had no -- there was no damage at all. Her home still has a little bit of water in it. But it is improving, obviously, just in that one area. She lives just south of Colombo. So it wasn't as bad as some of the areas further south, in Galle and things like that.

KING: We'll take a break and come back and ask if these people are happy with the way things have been going, the relief efforts and the like, and what more can be done. Don't go away.


KING: Marty Evans, president and CEO of the American Red Cross, there is no way you can foresee something like this. Are you satisfied with how things are going?

EVANS: Well, I am heartened by how things picking up. You know, Larry, we're dealing with an area the size of the land mass of North America. With enormous devastation and destruction, and even in the best of times with a very limited logistics distribution system. So we're having to build this from the ground up, get teams with emergency relief in now, get teams to come in and assess so that we know what the most critical and urgent needs are for the midterm and the long term. So I think given the circumstances, what we're up against, the hurdles that we had to overcome, I think it's going as well as anybody could have expected.

KING: Dan Toole, are you satisfied with what UNICEF has done?

TOOLE: So far, yes, Larry. I think there's still a lot to do, and I think the U.N. has rightly been called on to coordinate, and it's doing a pretty good job. As Marty has just said, it's a gigantic space. It's three continents, it's five million people. So it's not like anything we've done before. It's really a huge challenge. I think UNICEF is doing a pretty good job getting out there. We need to get more out more rapidly, and that's the challenge for all of us, to make sure that our people get out, that our supplies get out, and for that, we need the support, the incredible outpouring of support here in the United States, in Europe, it's something extraordinary, and we need to benefit from that and build over the long term.

KING: Dr. Rajapaksa, do you envision many, many problems, post all this, with people who are alive now who may not be alive next week?

RAJAPAKSA: I do, unfortunately. From what I saw, the conditions that the people who survived were living in were just awful. I know a lot of aid is pouring in now, and I hope that helps, but definitely sanitation was a huge issue. There are people that we saw with open wounds that are walking barefoot on dusty streets, and you know, that's just a setup for serious infection. There just isn't adequate drinking water, enough -- people don't have kitchens, utensils to boil water, cook their food properly. There aren't sinks for people to wash their hands. So these are all things that really need to come very soon if we're going to prevent major epidemics.

KING: Dr. DeSilva, are you satisfied?

DESILVA: I'm very satisfied. Really, I liked the word that Marty Evans used. She was heartened by the outpouring of all of the generosity throughout the world. I am very heartened by this, and it makes me feel really good to see the United States military there and doing what they're doing, because I think that is a type of massive aid, and the need that we're going to need to get in there. It is not just going to happen from within -- from the people within the country. We are going to need national support and international support to make this whole thing happen. So yes, I am very happy, and I'm very heartened by this whole thing.

KING: Ted Chaiban, in all these deaths, 155,000 so far estimated, do we know what percentage, Ted, are children?

CHAIBAN: Well, we estimate -- we don't know, but we estimate that the percentage of children that died is about 40 percent of the total. But I also want to say that the effort has started to make a real difference, and in my travels around the country I've seen real signs of hope. I was in the east of the country, where there was an orphanage, where 80 of the 120 children in the orphanage died. We were able to work with some local NGOs to bring the 40 survivors together. I was there visiting them. They're starting to play. They're grieving, but they're getting together. They're starting to play. They're starting to act like children again. There are hopeful signs. And the relief effort, the incredible international generosity, the Sri Lankan generosity that we've seen is part of the solution.

KING: You said 40 percent are children.

CHAIBAN: Up to 40 percent would have been children. Children being so vulnerable, many not knowing how to swim, not being strong enough to hang on to trees or other ways that would prevent them from being washed away by the tsunami.

KING: We'll take a break and come back with more. If you want to check in and get more information on how to help, go to www.usafreedomcorps, that's one word, usafreedomcorps, there you see it on the screen, dot gov. on the Web. I'll be back with our panel and some more questions. Don't go away.


KING: In our remaining moments, Marty Evans, what's the number one thing the Red Cross needs now?

EVANS: Well, the Red Cross needs the support of the American public, and we are gratified that President Bush has launched the initiative, because there are other partners that we work with that also need the support of the American public. So that's going to help us do our job. Not only right now, but also into the next year and a half or so, with the midterm needs, and then bridge into the longer term needs. This is a multi-year rebuilding process, to rebuild families, to rebuild communities, to help people work through the extraordinary grief.

KING: They were here last night. Dan Toole, did you like the idea of making use of former Presidents Clinton and Bush?

TOOLE: I think it's a great idea. I mean, these are two personalities who can mobilize public opinion and public giving. What's so extraordinary in this country is the level of generosity, and we can mobilize that -- not just for the immediate, when it's clear that there is a problem, when there's images on their television, but as Marty has just said, over the long run. This is not a problem that finishes in six months. This is a problem for two years, for three years. Kids who are traumatized, who've seen their parents lost, that takes time, and we need support over that time.

KING: Dr. Rajapaksa, what's the number one medical problem they face?

RAJAPAKSA: Immediately, it's immediate needs. They need antibiotics, they need dressings for wounds, and very basic supplies we take for granted here in this country. Long term, the medical issues are going to be epidemics such as cholera, other intestinal diseases, shigella, salmonella, and there's also a concern about malaria and dengue fever, because so much stagnant water sitting around can lead to the breeding of mosquitoes and the transmission of these diseases.

KING: Dr. DeSilva, is this going to take years?

DESILVA: It is. I think it is going to take years, just to rebuild some of the infrastructure, but I think that over the short term, I think things are going to happen very quickly. And just to reiterate what some of the other panelists said, we need the continued support. I was thrilled to see President Clinton and President Bush on last night and mobilizing support from this country.

KING: And Ted Chaiban, what's the number one problem in Colombo, specifically? Are you there, Ted? We lost Ted.

Marty, what's the number one problem you face?

EVANS: Well, I think the number one problem we face is to keep the coordination going. We have so many different organizations. We have so many Red Crosses from around the world who are joining us, working with the local Red Crosses, the local disaster responders. We need to continue the exceptional coordination that we've seen so far.

KING: And Dan, are the individual countries in charge, or is this a U.N. picture?

TOOLE: The countries are in charge of the direct relief, obviously. India in particular, Thailand, Indonesia have done great jobs. But the U.N., Jan Egeland, the emergency relief coordinator, is pulling together World Food Program, World Health Organization, on the phone every single day trying to make this work the best we can, and working closely at country level. So it's really a combined effort.

KING: Thank you all very, very much.

Aaron Brown has hop-scotched across the continents. He's at the airport in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, arriving early this morning, and he will host "NEWSNIGHT" from there, where it is now daytime, a little after 10:00 a.m. Aaron, how goes it?

AARON BROWN, HOST, NEWSNIGHT: Well, it's been a long day since we left New York on Sunday, to the extent, Larry, that there is a ground zero in a tragedy like this. This is it. This is the place closest to where the quake hit. It's the place where the tsunami first hit, just 15 minutes after the quake. We listened throughout the night, people talk about how this wave came up and took out blocks. In Aceh, they talk about it taking out five and six kilometers from the ocean front. This is a place where four months from now, they'll still be picking up the dead. This is a place of great sorrow right now.

KING: Aaron Brown will now host -- it's not called "NEWSNIGHT" for the remainder of this tragedy, it's "Turning the Tide." Here's Aaron Brown. Aaron, carry on, man.

BROWN: Larry, thank you very much.


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