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Navy Works to Distribute Aid; Oxfam Great Britain Distributing Food, Water, Supplies; Web Site Helps Families Locate the Missing

Aired January 4, 2005 - 19:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, HOST: Good evening, and welcome, everyone. I'm Paula Zahn. I'll be joined by Anderson Cooper a little bit later on from Sri Lanka tonight.
Aid begins to flood in for tsunami victims, but bottlenecks still remain.

A CNN Special Report, Turning the Tide, begins right now.

A time of worship gone terribly wrong. A roaring sea engulfs a church filled with worshipers. Anderson Cooper's interview with the priest who speaks of miracles and hope.

It's been more than a week since the deadly tsunami, and thousands of Americans are still missing. A flood of frantic phone calls and pleas from Americans unable to find family members and friends. But what is the State Department doing to track the missing?

Secretary of State Colin Powell and Governor Jeb Bush see the destruction firsthand, while steady streams of aid pour into the region. Tonight, how your contributions are being used to help so many in need.

And a little miracle from the train wreck that claimed more than a thousand lives. Tonight, meet a 7-year-old boy who lost his mother and sisters to the monster sea, and how he was able to save himself.

ANNOUNCER: This is a CNN Special Report, Turning the Tide, with Anderson Cooper in Sri Lanka and Paula Zahn in New York.

ZAHN: And good evening. Welcome back. Thanks so much for joining us tonight. Welcome to another special two-hour edition of Turning the Tide, CNN's continuing coverage of an event that defies comprehension.

The violent, monstrous swelling of the Indian Ocean and the mass death and displacement that swelling has caused along many of the long coastlines of South Asia.

As you just heard, anchoring the coverage with me tonight will be Anderson Cooper from Beruwala (ph), Sri Lanka. Joining us also, Christiane Amanpour, Paula Hancocks, also in Beruwala, John King with the American secretary of state of Jakarta, Aaron Brown in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, and Soledad O'Brien and Matthew Chance in Phuket, Thailand. Of course, trying to understand the story is like trying to assemble a jigsaw puzzle the size of a continent, knowing for a fact that many of its millions of pieces are gone forever, and that those remaining may be faded, bleached, out of place, or too torn really to fit together.

Sometimes all you can do is just hold a piece up and stare at it.

On a beach in India down at the water's edge, two women each pour a trickle of milk into the sea. The milk is an offering, a prayer, really, to Samadru Rajan (ph), the Hindu water god, a way of begging the god never again become enraged enough to take the awful form he took last week, as an obliterating wall of water that ended countless lives and made poorer and more difficult far more even than it ended.

Of course, in all this tragedy, there are some amazing stories of survival and compassion. We've been trying to bring you as many of those as we can.

Our next guest is a young survivor, a 16-year-old high school sophomore from Redmond, Oregon. Jordan Bilyeu spent Christmas with his grandparents on Thailand's Phi Phi Island. He was sitting on the beach reading a book when the tsunami struck.

He joins me now from the telephone from his home in Redmond.

Thank you so much for joining us tonight, Jordan.

JORDAN BILYEU, TSUNAMI SURVIVOR (on phone): You're welcome.

ZAHN: So what can you tell us about when the first wave first struck?

BILYEU: Well, I was reading when it first came. And (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I heard voices, and everyone saying, Oh, look at that. And when I looked up, the bay was actually completely drained. It -- by the time I realized, or even had a chance to think about what it could be, the wave was already coming back.

ZAHN: So when did you realize the enormity of what you faced, the challenge that lied ahead?

BILYEU: Well, about four hours later, when a bunch of survivors were gathered together on the top of the hill. Some people were getting text messages, and some of them were able to access BBC on their cell phones. And I realized that it wasn't just, you know, Phi Phi Dan (ph) Island that was hit.

ZAHN: But in those first moments, when the first wave hit, you saw some things and smelled some things that you knew could ultimately end up costing you your life.

BILYEU: Yes. Immediately, when the wave hit, I was kind of swept off my feet and pushed under some rubble. And I was under the -- kind of the black water and the rubble from the houses for about a minute or so. And at that point, I thought that I was dead. And then when I came back up, there was just, you know, the smell of propane from the propane tanks floating around and some leaking, the smell of sewage, and the grit and the sand that was in my mouth when I swallowed some water. At that point, I didn't think I was going to make it.

ZAHN: But then after you surfaced, you actually were strong enough to join other people in helping rescue others. How much of a sense of panic was there at that point?

BILYEU: At first, when I first got out of the water, and I was helped into the third-story hotel, there -- panic wasn't really an option. I knew that I needed to clean my wound. My finger had been cut off at the tip. So I poured vodka over that, and tied it with a sock. And then after that, when the adrenaline kicks in, you kind of just know that you need to help people.

ZAHN: And, of course, you had to be most concerned about your grandparents. When did you realize they were OK?

BILYEU: Immediately. As soon as I looked out back into the bay, I realized that "Wind Dancer" -- and that's the name of our boat -- it was fine. It was floating out in the bay.

ZAHN: So how did the boat avoid getting crunched in the wake of that wave?

BILYEU: Initially, when the water got sucked out of the bay, the boat got pulled out into the ocean by probably about a mile, and that's probably what saved them, and because they were able to drop anchor in the deep sea so they wouldn't be pushed back in.

ZAHN: Well, there's got to be a part of you that's going to be pinching yourself for a long time. You are one lucky man, as well as your other family members.

BILYEU: Yes, we're all very lucky.

ZAHN: Well, thank you so much for sharing your story with us tonight. Jordan Bilyeu.

BILYEU: Thank you.

ZAHN: Tens of thousands of people, though, are still missing from the tsunami, and hope is fading that they will be found alive. In Phuket, Thailand, people are still visiting a wall covered with photos and names of the lost. Some 6,500 people in Thailand disappeared when the tsunami struck, many of them tourists.

Matthew Chance is in Phuket, Thailand, with the story of one man's search and his grief.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The lost faces of the tsunami. Not confirmed dead, but as good as. These are some of the many swept from hotels and beaches in southern Thailand, mainly tourists. Recovery efforts go on, but the sea may never surrender thousands it engulfed.

Thomas Zumbul (ph) was in Thailand from Switzerland with his wife, Bertie, when the tsunami hit. He searched hospitals and morgues to find her, but with no luck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's a tall and just a strong lady. And for the moment, she's pregnant, from five months. So she had the big stomach. And she's really a correct (UNINTELLIGIBLE) woman. When somebody -- when she is somewhere, she make everything to contact me, that I know.

CHANCE: From the air, the full scale of disaster is overwhelming. This is what's left of the luxury resorts of Koao Lak (ph). Thirty thousand people were here when the waves hit.

We went with Thomas back to the ruins of the Sofitel, the resort where he and his wife were guests, and where hundreds died in panic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My wife and me, we were also running here. And I lose my shoes, so I don't can run, don't can follow her. The last thing that I see, she was perhaps over there, and me, I go behind this pillar here.

CHANCE (on camera): This very pillar?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was exactly this pillar, yes. And from this moment on, I don't know nothing else. It was the water come inside.

CHANCE (voice-over): It's a story of random survival and tragedy repeated countless times here. Who knows why some lived while so many died?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel empty. I feel -- I don't know what I do now when I come home. I have to begin a new job, but I don't -- I can't do that now, and I feel I'm so -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- I lost all these things, clothes and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and cameras and jewelry and -- but all these things are nothing. I mean, they have no value, finally, when you see all these dead people.

Because I knew, yes, when go to your last trip, you take nothing with you.

CHANCE: The hard truth that so many stricken with grief now have to bear.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Phuket, Thailand.


ZAHN: And Matthew joins us now live.

Matthew, the enormity of the losses is so difficult for us to absorb from here. You have been in a lot of challenging situations over the years, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), up against major action of wars and all that. What has struck you most about what you've experienced there in the days you've been on the ground, and you've seen the aftermath of the tsunami?

CHANCE: Well, it has been absolutely incredible, and you're right. There has been these many natural disasters that we've all covered in the past. Just a year ago, of course, in southern Iran, in Bam, so many tens of thousands of people were killed.

But I think what really strikes me about this situation is the sheer magnitude, the sheer number of people that have been killed by this. Families completely devastated, literally torn apart by this giant wave.

Also here in Thailand, it's where so many tourists from around the world were vacationing over the holiday period, totally unexpecting of anything like this. And their lives have been, as we've just seen, completely smashed by this tsunami.

ZAHN: I guess the other thing that is very moving to watch from here is the level of support survivors are offering each other. What kind of kindness have you seen?

CHANCE: Well, there's a great deal of camaraderie here in Phuket. Expatriates who can speak English and Thai, and those who can just speak English and other languages, Swedish and German and things like that, have been volunteering their services in order to coordinate between the families of the victims, the survivors, and the Thai authorities as well, to make sure they can most effectively get the help they need from the diplomatic missions that have set up emergency desks here, and get the help that the Thai government is also offering.

So there's been this enormous outpouring of help from the local expatriate community, even from the tourists that were holidaying in Phuket but weren't directly affected by the tsunami themselves, they've stayed on on their holiday, on their vacation, and offered their services, offered their time to help those less fortunate than them, Paula.

ZAHN: Always encouraging to see that kind of humanity. Matthew Chance, thanks so much.

U.S., of course, now bringing in the big political guns. Colin Powell and Jeb Bush see this destruction firsthand. Will the U.S. aid mission help bridge the divide with the Muslim world? John King joins us live from Indonesia.

Also tonight, thousands of Americans still unaccounted for. The personal story of two families searching for loved ones, and trying to hold out hope.

And a little bit later on, two stranded dolphins, a mother and her calf, tossed into the lake left by the tsunami. Rescue workers race against time to save their lives. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST: And welcome back to our special coverage, a live two-hour Special Report, Turning the Tide. I'm Anderson Cooper in Sri Lanka.

One of the things we've found these last several days traveling around southern Sri Lanka here on the west coast, is, you find people asking questions. How did this happen? How could this be allowed to have happened?

We found a church in a town about three hours south of here, Matara (ph), while during mass on a Sunday, while taking Holy Communion, the water poured in. Out of the 100 parishioners, 20 people died in that church. And yet today, there is hope in that church, and you hear people talking of miracles. They talked, they remember those who are gone. They remember what they've lost.

But there is a sense that something magical happened inside that church. Take a look.


COOPER (voice-over): In this small Catholic church nearly drowned by the sea, a song of faith, frail but clear. Two members of the choir practice the hymn they were singing the moment the ocean rushed in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I shouted to the people, and I said, Please come in and get back from that door.

COOPER: Father Charles Hawawassam (ph) was at the altar, serving communion when the first wave hit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We saw bodies floating, and there was a vehicle inside, and there was another vehicle from the other side.

COOPER (on camera): There was a vehicle, a car (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here, just here.

COOPER (voice-over): More than 100 people were attending mass. Twenty of them died trying to escape.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most of the people were killed in that area. When you clean, you (UNINTELLIGIBLE), still you find bodies.

COOPER (on camera): So you're still finding bodies.


COOPER (voice-over): Numali Fernando's (ph) daughter died in here. She comes to the church every day searching for her daughter's body, praying for her return.


COOPER: The water not only robbed lives, it also ripped the heart from this church. A 500-year-old relic, Our Lady of Matara, the name of the church, the name of the town, disappeared from this case. Nine-year-old Dimiker (ph) says he saw the statue levitate and float swiftly out to sea. "It was a miracle," he says.

For Father Charles, the loss of his parishioners was already overwhelming, the loss of the statue simply too much. For three days, he comforted the living and buried the dead, each night praying for the Lady of Matara to come home.

Finally, on Wednesday, he went to the ocean's edge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I was watching at the sea, and I said, My goodness, you have to come today. That was the only thing I said. You have to come today. I have a great mission. I have to console my people. Then he came, about 6:30 in the morning. I was just in my pajamas. I didn't have even have my (UNINTELLIGIBLE) coffee. So I was so happy.

COOPER: The statue was found here, in debris about a mile from the church. The delicate crown on Baby Jesus's head was remarkably intact. For this parish and for this priest, it was one small sign hope would return.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So what I feel is that she was with the people, with her children. She didn't want to escape, or she didn't want anyone to take her and hide somewhere. She went with the people. And she carried Jesus. For her to come back is a miracle, yes.


COOPER: And I'm joined now by CNN's Christiane Amanpour.

Wherever you go, you hear that word, "miracles," a lot.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You do, and it's such a religious place, whether it be Muslim, Buddhist, or Christian. And you hear the survivors, many of them, saying the only way they survived was because of the kind of miracles that you've been talking about, because of being spared by the religion, that -- whatever god they pray to.

But at the same time, there are still so many tragic stories about people who have had to make the kinds of choices that I can't even ever imagine having to make. I heard from a boy who was carrying his mother and his sister in the floodwaters, trying to save them, and at one point had to make a decision of who to let go, because he couldn't save both of them.

Another, a man who lost his whole family, survived the tsunami, and then drank poison because he simply couldn't go on without them, and is now critically ill in hospital.

So this is such an incredible sense of loss and personal trauma that I don't think we can get over.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, it's such a big story, a widespread story, and yet the loss is so personal and individual.

Let's talk a little bit about the aid. You've been traveling to the east of the country, hard to get to. You took a helicopter out there yesterday. What do you see? Is the aid getting through?

AMANPOUR: Well, we went to the east coast, which is -- really took the brunt of the tsunami. And we went to Batikloa (ph), which is, again, the nexus of the hardest hit. And we saw so much destruction all along the coastline, what we've seen for the last 10 days.

But I think, you know, even though governments are stepping up, money, we've heard, has been flowing in, certain food stations are being set up, I think what's so obvious is that yet no huge big earthmovers or reconstruction equipment is coming to -- just to clear this.

COOPER: Yes. And it's so frustrating. I mean, you see people out there with pickaxes and shovels, just small implements. They need big machinery.

AMANPOUR: Exactly. Bare hands right now. And it's just going to take months, if not years.

COOPER: All right. We'll have more from Christiane Amanpour shortly in this special two-hour coverage of the continuing disaster here in Sri Lanka and throughout South Asia.

We'll be right back.

ZAHN: Thanks, Anderson.

Indonesia, of course, has been the hardest hit of all the countries in this region, with something like 94,000 dead, thousands more missing.

That is where President Bush dispatched his secretary of state, Colin Powell, and his brother, Jeb Bush, governor of Florida.

CNN senior White House correspondent John King is traveling with Secretary Powell and Governor Bush, whose fact-finding tour began in Thailand.


JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At Phuket, a firsthand update on the tsunami relief effort, and an acknowledgment the challenge in Thailand is far different than in poorer and more remote areas harder hit.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: I will go back and see if there's not more we can do. It has to do with identification of remains, forensic activity, forensic pathology. KING: Secretary Powell and Florida Governor Jeb Bush were briefed on efforts to track down reports of Americans still unaccounted for, and the president's brother visited the makeshift wall where family members of the many more missing Europeans and Asians appeal for help.

GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: This breaks my heart. It -- we talk about how in Thailand, the number -- the damage was less than Indonesia, but put in perspective, thousands of people lost their lives here from all over the world, half of them from Thailand, half from the rest of the world. It was more than the number of people that were killed on September 11.

KING: Flying into Phuket, it was clear the damage here is significant, but in isolated pockets. Some 4,000 people are still listed as missing, and Thailand's foreign minister said additional search planes and forensics teams are critical to the now-fading hopes of getting a reliable count of the victims and their nationalities.

SURAKIAT SATHIRATHAI, THAI FOREIGN MINISTER: We have to wait for the final analysis and comparison to be able to tell exactly who are the Thais who are foreigners.

KING: Looking past the immediate relief effort, Thailand's prime minister pledged $20 million to develop a tsunami early-warning system for his country. And Secretary Powell said talks Thursday in Jakarta and later this month in Japan will aim for a broader system covering the Indian Ocean and South China Sea.

From Thailand, it was on to Indonesia, where the destruction is worse, and where Secretary Powell sees the relief effort as a possible antidote to deep anti-American sentiment.

POWELL: But I think it does give the Muslim world and the rest of the world an opportunity to see American generosity, American values in action.


KING: The major goal of this trip, of course, to show American goodwill and American compassion, a commitment to continued American aid.

But one recurring question, and one recurring source of frustration, for Secretary Powell and the others in the delegation is that effort to get an exact death toll of the Americans killed in the tsunami. It is at 16 right now. There's a list of 4,000 Americans still unaccounted for. The State Department does not call them missing because it believes that list is grossly exaggerated, borne of confusion and panic back home in the United States in the immediate hours after the tsunami.

But Secretary Powell says it a -- is it a -- it is a painstaking process to doublecheck that list. Some U.S. officials believe in the end, Paula, the U.S. death toll could double, perhaps triple. They don't expect it to go much higher than that, though, Paula. ZAHN: Which is keeping thousands of Americans with chills running down their spines here tonight. Thanks so much, John King.

As you all can imagine, a great many things can actually stop the flow of aid. And today in Indonesia, though, something you probably can't imagine did just that, at least for a little while.

And our colleague Aaron Brown now joins us from Banda Aceh with the details. Aaron?

AARON BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, good evening to you.

You can see, I think, a Marine helicopter behind us. This is the chokepoint, if you will, for the largest humanitarian operation ever mounted in the history of humankind.

Just behind that helicopter, you can probably see a couple of commercial airliners, and there is a runway right there, where you could see a military transport plane making the turn, that's where a plane, a 737, yesterday, hit a water buffalo and shut down the entire relief operation, or at least a large part of the relief operation, for 18 hours until they could get it off the runway.

This is an airport that has but one active runway, and they are trying to ferry in an enormous amount of supplies, water, food, medicine, and the rest. And it all came to a halt yesterday.

This is also where Secretary of State Powell will land in about four hours or so, and it is where about 10 American Sea Hawk helicopters will start arriving in about an hour, bringing supplies in that will then be ferried to the western part of this island. The only way to get there is by helicopter. The roads, the bridges, are now all gone.

ZAHN: Aaron Brown, thanks so much for that update.

Once again, it's impossible at this hour to determine just what that 18-hour delay will mean to those hundreds of thousands of victims who need those supplies.

As John King just mentioned in his report, thousands of Americans unaccounted for after the storm. The personal story of two families trying to find their loved ones a half-world away.

Plus, two dolphins stranded by the tsunami, a mother and her calf, more than a week without food or clean water. We have the latest on the race against time to save them.


COOPER: Sometimes the people who survived this devastation survived by a matter of feet, maybe even inches. You can call them lucky, though that's a hard word to use, when many of those people who have survived themselves have also experienced tremendous loss of friends or family or loved ones. Soledad O'Brien is live on the island of Phuket, Thailand, with one survivor's story of loss.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: And unfortunately, Anderson, it is a familiar story here. Survivors who have lost utterly everything. Franky Gun is a German national. He was hosting his mother and his father at his beach house, about 2 1/2 hours' drive north of here. He describes what happened as he heard the wave approaching.


FRANKY GUN, TSUNAMI SURVIVOR: First the power went down, so everything got quiet, and then outside I heard people running and screaming. And at the same time, you could hear the sound of the water, but at that time I didn't know what it was all about. So I didn't know it's water.

O'BRIEN: And you were hit by the water. I know that you were in your bungalow along with your mom and dad.

GUN: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Who are in their 70s. What happened to you?

GUN: So we were in the house, but my mother was screaming, the water is coming, the water is coming! Then we saw the water was going up and very rapidly going up because we had glass front doors. And I just shouted, we have to get out of here. tried to open the kitchen door, and it was not possible because of the water outside. And then I wanted to throw something into a window or something. And at that time, the water was about this high, 1.50 meter or something like that, and then the front door broke, and the glass came in, and the water just rushed in. And it basically flushed me through the kitchen window, and my parents went through the kitchen door. We were all flushed out of the house. So no chance to hold on to anything.

O'BRIEN: Was that the last time that you've seen your parents?

GUN: Exactly. I turned around after I went through the window. I turned around and tried to locate them, and I looked at the house, and at that time, the water was this high up to the ceiling. And I didn't see anybody there, and I was just shouting at the house, mom, dad, you have to get out of there. You have to get out of there. and then the second wave came, and it just like hit me and pushed me under water.

O'BRIEN: You've seen the damage and how bad it is, and you've seen what they've been recovering. Do you think your parents have survived this?

GUN: To be honest, not. Because I almost drowned, and I was in the dive industry for about seven years before. So I'm a diving instructor and have to do a lot with water and everything. And I almost drowned in it. And it was like -- there was the forest behind the water, you cannot -- if you haven't felt it yourself, you know, you cannot imagine how hard it hits you.

O'BRIEN: The descriptions have been unbelievable. GUN: And my parents, they were 75 and 64 years old, and they were not that sporty anymore. And my father, he had a heart -- a pacemaker.

O'BRIEN: You don't think there's any way they could have made it.

GUN: After, when over, I just like instinctively knew they couldn't have made it. Otherwise, it must be a miracle.


O'BRIEN: Mr. Gun's parents were in Thailand to celebrate his father's 75th birthday. Anderson, a father told me yesterday how he was putting water wings on his 2-year-old son when the wave hit him. The two of them were blown apart and he tried desperately to clutch onto the little boy, and he was unable to hold on to him, and he is still searching for his son today. Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Soledad, how hard a search is it? How organized is the effort to find these people?

O'BRIEN: It is organized in some ways, but it requires the people who are just devastated to go around to the various hospitals and also to clutch on to any rumor and any word. And frankly, talk to the massive media that's gathered here just to have a chance of maybe finding this needle in a haystack. The truth is, as time goes by, of course, the hopes diminish. And if you keep in mind that, when bodies get washed onto the shore or when bodies are recovered from under the debris, they're utterly unrecognizable. They're bloated and distended. There is so little chance, I think, for closure for many of these families as the time passes. Words really do not describe just how awful it is for them -- Anderson.

COOPER: Soledad, thanks very much. I talked to a priest earlier today who said -- actually, late last night -- who said that one of his parishioners whose mother was recovered, she said she didn't want to see her mother because of the condition of the body. And as Soledad said, she had been in the water for a long period of time. We'll be right back with more.


ZAHN (voice-over): It's been more than a week since the deadly tsunami, and thousands of Americans are still missing. A flood of frantic phone calls and pleas from Americans unable to find family members and friends. But what is the State Department doing to track the missing?

And a little miracle from the train wreck that claimed more than a thousand lives. Tonight meet a 7-year-old boy who lost his mother and sisters to the monster sea and how he was able to save himself.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ZAHN: And welcome back to our CNN special report, "Turning the Tide." Joining me again right now, Anderson Cooper, who is on one of the beaches where the tsunami hit, Beruwala, Sri Lanka. Anderson, before we went to the break, you were talking about many of these families facing the painful reality of being handed remains of relatives, obviously, whose bodies they couldn't possibly recognize. But how active is the search for the missing at this hour?

COOPER: It's a good question, and I'm not really clear on the answer because there is really, at least here in Sri Lanka no sort of central organized spot where somebody can go to find a loved one. The government has talked here about assembling a book because they've been photographing these bodies as they buried them. You really don't find bodies, at least in the western part of the country, lying around like you did earlier in the week. They buried the bodies. They've taken fingerprints from them, and they photographed the bodies as well. So you really -- they talk about assembling these photos in some sort of a book that people would be able to go and look at and look through, but it hasn't happened.

I mean, it's been well over a week, and still the search is a very individual, a very personal thing. People go from hospital to hospital. They go to schools. They go to churches. But they haven't been able to find most of the people that they're looking for. I talked to one mother just yesterday, and she said to me, what about my daughter? What about my daughter? She kept repeating that. And what do you say to that? There's not an answer. There's nothing you can do. You just have to wait -- Paula.

ZAHN: Unfortunately, the tragedy is compounded because many of these same people who are looking for loved ones have been left homeless by the tsunami. Tell us about the status of the hundreds of thousands of people whose homes were all but wiped out.

COOPER: You know, it is -- I'm sorry. There are stray dogs wherever you go, and there's a dog that's playing with me here. I'm sorry. It's literally...

ZAHN: Anderson.

COOPER: It's actually -- it's funny, but it's also sad at the same time. There's these stray dogs, and they're hungry, and they're looking for food no matter where you go. You see them all over the rubble. Man, this is just ridiculous. Hey, you. Hey, you. I'm sorry. You see them going through the rubble looking for food, and you see cats going through the rubble looking for food. You know, it's one of those stories that you just don't see much about, but the animals are all over this place. And as you can see, they're very persistent. Paula, back to you for now.

ZAHN: I can well understand the distraction, and I think one of the things Anderson touched on earlier today is not only are these animals hungry, you've got hundreds of thousands of homeless people also who are in dire need of some food.

COOPER: We're going to take a short break here. When we come back, we'll talk about the need for more aid in south Asia. We'll be right back.


ZAHN: The search goes on. The State Department says there are now about 4,000 reports of Americans still unaccounted for. Among the missing, Armine Kevorkian. She and her boyfriend Richard Morris a Canadian were vacationing in Khao Lak, Thailand, when the tsunami struck. Their families have been scrambling to get any news as to the couple's whereabouts. Yesterday, they got some, but it's not necessarily what they wanted to hear.

Joining me from Los Angeles is Armine Kevorkian's niece Tina Kervorkian and in Chicago Richard Morris' son Geoffrey Morris. Thank you both for being with us. Tina, I know you're going to share a little bit with us tonight of what was in that e-mail. You had not heard about your aunt or her boyfriend's whereabouts in over a week now. What did the e-mail tell you?

TINA KEVORKIAN, AUNT MISSING: The e-mail was from the owner of the resort that they were staying at, and it confirmed that both Richard and my aunt were at the hotel at the time and in their bungalow. And unfortunately, from what it sounds like in the letter, there's very little hope that they would have survived the tsunami.

ZAHN: But in spite of what you learned in that e-mail, are you still trying to hold on to some hope?

KEVORKIAN: Well, of course. It's hard to give up all hope until there's hard evidence of them being deceased.

ZAHN: Geoffrey, how did you view what you learned in that e- mail?

GEOFFREY MORRIS, FATHER MISSING: Well, it was hard because we've learned so slowly about all the information. At first, we had almost no information, and we -- you know, it dawned on us so slowly how much danger they were in at the time. And so we're -- I think we're at the point where we can start to grieve and look for closure now.

ZAHN: So tough to hear because I know, Tina, you're still trying to hang on to that sliver of hope. How helpful has the State Department been to you as you've conducted this search?

KEVORKIAN: They were the first people that I contacted. They've taken my aunt's information. They have called us a couple of times to see if we have any updates. But that's really all that we've heard from them.

ZAHN: We're looking at a picture of your aunt right now. I understand she was quite an adventurous woman. She loved to travel, didn't she?

KEVORKIAN: She did. That was her dream. She worked hard for 25 years to retire early and do some world travel.

ZAHN: And she didn't waste any time did she? KEVORKIAN: No, she didn't.

ZAHN: Finally, Geoffrey, you have posted Armine and Richard's names and numbers on Have you gotten any response from anybody who's logged on?

MORRIS: Yes. You know, it's really meant a lot to us, because we had so little information about their whereabouts, that people have contacted us, and these people that have barely survived themselves made such an effort to contact us and let us know everything they knew. And so, you know, we don't have much hope now to find my father alive, but we have a lot of hope for, you know, finding closure and for our family and for the families of all the missing people.

ZAHN: Well, I'm sorry to hear that e-mail was such bad news for your family. But you guys have awfully big hearts to wish others out there better luck. Tina and Geoffrey, thank you. Good luck to your family.

KEVORKIAN: Thank you.

ZAHN: And some U.S. doctors have answered the enormous call for hope. They've gone to the region to use their healing hands. Our doctor shares one of them, what he has seen, when we come back.


COOPER: And welcome back. We are live in Sri Lanka. Just yesterday I started seeing some relief vehicles for the first time. I saw the first car from the U.N. Relief agencies really starting to pour in. CNN's Paula Hancocks has been following a number of agencies. You followed around a doctor from AmeriCares. What did you find?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I followed him around for the past four days, going along the south coast of Sri Lanka. I mean, a doctor is a doctor the world over, but the one thing he said that he noticed was what makes him different is the resources. I mean, American doctors do have the best of Western medicine at their fingertips. The Sri Lankan doctors have the absolute basic necessities, and we're finding in many cases, they don't even have that.

So I followed Dr. Fine, who was traveling with AmeriCares around the site of the island and logged his reactions.


HANCOCKS (voice-over): Taking off from Amsterdam with $30,000 worth of essential medical supplies, Dr. Jonathan Fine has taken leave from his hospital in Connecticut to help the Sri Lankan tsunami victims. Twenty hours later, he touches down in Colombo, with U.S. aid agency AmeriCares. He has a day to acclimatize as the medicine clears the overwhelmed Sri Lankan customs.

A seven-hour drive to one of the places AmeriCares believes the medicine is needed most, Hambantato (ph), on the southern coast of Sri Lanka is where the real work starts for Dr. Fine.

Locals estimate between 3,000 and 10,000 people lost their lives here. The injured are countless.

The hospital was inundated with casualties. Dr. Fine's job is not only to deliver basic medicine now, but assess exactly what's needed in the coming days and weeks.

On a tour of the hospital, he sees firsthand the type of injuries Sri Lankan doctors are struggling with.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She must be on a lot of oxygen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And she's working hard breathing.

HANCOCKS: Physical injuries Dr. Fine knows how to treat. The level of trauma is something he's never experienced.

DR. JONATHAN FINE, AMERICARES: To see the victims dead-eyed in their beds, lying there staring at us, and wondering that -- what their stories were, how they'll ever learn to cope with this, from what they've seen, what they've lost, it's been totally overwhelming.

HANCOCKS: Traveling along the damaged coastal road, he has time to absorb what he's seen.

FINE: I try to (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I think I fight back tears just like anybody else does.

HANCOCKS: One doctor he spoke to was not able to fight back his tears as he talked about his experiences.

FINE: Saving the lives of babies, fleeing for his own life, and then his own inability to sleep now. His head hurts. He can't eat. He himself is traumatized.

HANCOCKS: When I asked if he would consider volunteering for disaster relief again, he replied simply, "it would be an honor."


COOPER: What about the doctors themselves? I mean, who cares for them?

HANCOCKS: Well, that's what Dr. Fine was finding. He was saying that they're obviously grieving as well. They've lost family members. Some of them have lost their colleagues. They've got an extra workload because of the tremendous amount of casualties that are coming in, and they're having to do more because some of their colleagues have died. So he's saying they need time to grieve too, and no one at the moment is really caring for them. They're spending all their time caring for everybody else.

COOPER: All right, Paula Hancocks, thanks very much.

CNN's Christiane Amanpour will be up right after the break with an amazing story of a little boy who survived an unbelievable disaster on a train. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Yesterday we showed you some of that terrible train disaster here. It happened about an hour south of here. A thousand people aboard the train. It was called the Queen of the Sea. Christiane has been out at the site of the wreckage. You found the story of a little boy who survived in just the most amazing way.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Extraordinary tale of survival. You know, when you see these young victims, whether they've survived or whether they're injured, it just gets you in the gut. When I talked to this little boy, Shihan (ph), his name is, he managed to hang on and survive this massive tsunami, and basically it was -- it's such a story of sadness but also of stoicism. Listen to what he has had to endure.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): Bodies are still being pulled from the train wreck that was the west coast's single biggest disaster. Families and survivors are still looking, hoping against hope for a miracle.

7-year-old Shihan (ph) is the Perumavalanga (ph) family's little miracle. Along with his father, he shows us the site where his mother, two sisters, and cousin were killed by the monstrous sea. In his soft child's voice, he recounts the horror and how he survived.

"We were going on an outing to the beach, when suddenly the train stopped", says Shihan (ph). "Then a huge wave hit us, and our carriage flipped over. I hung on to the luggage rack. That was the last time I saw my mother and my two sisters."

And he shows us how terrified and floating in water up to his chest, he clung on until the tidal wave subsided and he was rescued. It is an extraordinary triumph of survival when so many of the smallest, the youngest, the frailest have perished.

Ranjit (ph), Shihan's (ph) father, is a fisherman. He had been working and didn't join them that day. This is the first time he has seen the wreck that decimated his family.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): As soon as I heard, I rushed to the hospitals and temples. I could not find them. Then at another village hospital, I saw the bodies of my wife and daughters being unloaded from a truck full of corpses.

AMANPOUR (on camera): More than 1,200 people were killed when the tsunami flipped this train as if it was just a tin can. Ranjit (ph) had already found the bodies of his wife, his two daughters and his niece, and he had buried them. And he still didn't know whether his son had survived.

(voice-over): As Sri Lanka's armed forces and ordinary volunteers buried truckloads of bodies in mass graves, Ranjit (ph) said that he gave up hope of finding his son, fearing that he too had been buried without a trace.

But, two days later, officials called to say his son had been found, and today he shares the nice big family home he built just with Shihan (ph). And all they have left are pictures and shared memories. His wife, Amita (ph), they had been married for 15 years. His two daughters. The oldest one wanted to be a dance teacher.

(on camera): This is you.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): With the women of the family gone, a motherless little boy and a bereft husband cling to each other now.

"I'm alone," says Shihan, "except for my father." He turned 7 as they buried his mother and sisters. He refused to believe they were dead until his father showed him their graves, the two sisters buried in one coffin because there are too few of them for so many dead. Ranjid says he has just one reason left to live.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because of my son only I am living today, because my wife has gone. My daughter's gone. So because of son only, I am living now.

AMANPOUR: And Shihan, he has not yet shed a tear.


AMANPOUR: It's hard to imagine how somebody so small can absorb so much tragedy. What we've been told is that these little kids are absorbing all of this trauma, many of them not showing it in obvious ways yet. But with little Shihan, we could see him fiddling with his wrist, fiddling his eyes, just fiddling, but stoic and not a tear.

COOPER: And his voice, so incredible.


COOPER: That crash, we were both out there yesterday. It's surreal. It's sort of in the jungle. And it's so frustrating to see. They have a few bulldozers. They now have one crane. But, for days, they haven't had any heavy equipment to get the people out.

AMANPOUR: That's right. And even while we were there and, still, there are still bodies there. so, the survivors come back. And it's really scrabbling, hand scrubbing. They have to go rent these things at their own expense, some of them.

And the stench is overwhelming. So, you go back and it just hits you in the face as well.

COOPER: Yes. There were some cadaver dogs out there yesterday trying to find bodies. And we were talking to the volunteers from Holland who had the dogs. And they were saying that they were so many smells that the dogs were having a hard time sort of identifying where one particular smell was, because it all around.

AMANPOUR: It's overwhelming.

COOPER: Paula?

ZAHN: And it is so tough to listen to those story.

Christiane and Anderson, thank you very much.

In this disaster, there are so many areas we've yet to see, so many people whose stories have not been told. Our CNN correspondents are throughout the region bringing the stories you will not find anywhere else.

And coming up in this hour, a new and deeply disturbing crisis, the exploitation, even kidnapping of some of this disaster's most innocent victims, the children.

But, first, we want to bring you up to speed on some new developments. U.S. Marines are now operating out of southern Sri Lanka. The first big contingent arrived in a cargo plane bringing heavy lifting helicopters, bulldozers, generators and tons of food, water and medical supplies. The relief effort in Indonesia ran into a big snag today for about 18 hours, when a cargo plane ran into a water buffalo. The Banda Aceh Airport, which is the main hub for distributing relief supplies, was shut down until repair crews fixed the big jet's landing gear and got it off the runway.

At a news conference in Indonesia, Secretary of State Colin Powell said the relief effort is chance for the Muslim world to see what he calls American values in action.

At this moment, the confirmed death toll from the earthquake and tsunamis is just over 155,000. It is expected to keep on rising. Meanwhile, the number of people unaccounted for is still in the tens of thousands. And you have no doubt seen the headlines. You've heard stories about Americans agonizing over the fate of missing loved ones. The U.S. State Department is looking for thousands of Americans whose fates are unknown at this hour.

But there happens to be a huge discrepancy in those numbers.


ZAHN (voice-over): A death certificate being signed at the U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka where search efforts for missing Americans are at an all-time high.

MARC WILLIAMS, U.S. EMBASSY: It's really the worst part of my job. ZAHN: Marc Williams is the U.S. Embassy official in Sri Lanka charged with searching for Americans missing in the aftermath of last week's tsunami.

WILLIAMS: Sometimes, we think we're doing better because the number of found keeps going up and then, all of a sudden, we'll get a bunch of calls and e-mails saying that we need to look for more people.

ZAHN: But while the State Department has been flooded with more than 20,000 frantic inquiries, confirmed deaths of Americans have been relatively few.

ADAM ERELI, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: The number today is up to 16.

ZAHN: But for thousands of Americans, like Karen Foust, this is not comforting news. From her home in Howell, Michigan, she's been scouring the Internet in search of news about her stepdaughter, Angie, and her boyfriend, Luke Scully, in Thailand on vacation.

KAREN FOUST, STEPMOTHER OF MISSING AMERICAN: As time passes, it gets much more hard to hear, to even read the e-mails, because you're thinking the worst at every one.

ZAHN: And Luke's sister Sage in Miami also clings to hope.

SAGE SCULLY, SISTER OF MISSING TSUNAMI VICTIM: I just still feel that he's alive somewhere out there and that we haven't found him and that, if someone sees this tonight, they might have met him and they could give us an indication of where he might have gone. I do believe he's a survivor, and if he's out there, we will find him.

ZAHN: So the real question is, just how many American lives were truly lost? The State Department can't say.

ERELI: It wouldn't be helpful to speculate because I think it gets people excited in ways that's not good, that's not helpful. So we're not going to speculate on what a death toll eventually may or may not be.

ZAHN: Unlike Sweden and Germany, which had been fairly precise about how many of their nationals have died, the U.S. State Department's tally of dead and missing Americans only adds to the confusion.

ERELI: The number changes every day. Yesterday, we were dealing with 5,000 inquiries. It went up to 6,000. Now it's down to 4,000. It's such a moving target that we can't give you a specific number at any one moment of time that is both comprehensive and is reliable.

ZAHN: While the number of unsolved inquiries is now at about 4,000, Washington believes the actual number is much smaller. Why? Because there are often several inquiries for each person, and those who are found don't always check back in. This lack of clarity only adds to the angst of Dr. Douglas Shellhorn of North Carolina, now in Thailand searching for his sister.

DR. DOUG SHELLHORN, BROTHER OF MISSING TSUNAMI VICTIM: Hard to be optimistic when you see so much destruction and see the loss of life, the terrible loss of life that's been over there. It's just devastating.

ZAHN: It could be weeks, maybe even months, before we get a clearer picture of how many Americans were victims of the tsunami.


ZAHN: The uncertainty about U.S. citizens follows Secretary of State Colin Powell as he leads a U.S. delegation through the region. Their latest stop, Indonesia's capital city of Jakarta, well away from the disaster zone.

CNN's John King is traveling with Secretary Powell and tag- teaming him all day.

John, it strikes me that the secretary is getting increasingly prickly questions about missing Americans. And what we're hearing from over here is, wait a minute, Germany seems to have a good sense of how many of its citizens are missing. Sweden does as well. Why can't America get the numbers straight?

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, it is a source of recurring frustration to Secretary Powell as he travels.

One reason U.S. officials say they can't get a better answer is that most of those Europeans came in groups organized by tour groups. The Americans who visit Thailand, for example, tend to come in groups of one or two, three or four. So it is much harder to keep a count of them.

U.S. officials say they have this list of 4,000. They believe, as you just noted, that number is grossly exaggerated. Secretary Powell refuses to speculate publicly. Other officials tell us they expect in time the U.S. death toll will double, perhaps into the 30s, maybe triple into the 40s. They don't think it will go much higher than that.

But, Paula, one of the recurring tragedies here and one of the gruesome realities is, many of the bodies not recovered now never will be recovered. So, officials do concede privately, they may never have an exact count.

ZAHN: So sad to even -- thinking about. So if the secretary won't speculate, what is it that he is telling all of you on this trip?

KING: What he is telling us is that he is pressing local consulate officials as he encounters them on this trip, go back and check the hospitals. Go back and check the morgues. Go back and check people who come in who have lost their documentation when the tsunami hit who have applied for emergency passports. In the last 24 hours, they have started calling back all of those aunts and uncles and mothers and fathers and loved one in the United States who called in the initial hours, saying, I think my friend, I think my relative is in the area. Can you help me? Call them all back to double-check if they have checked in by now.

Again, they think that 4,000 number is grossly exaggerated. But Secretary Powell concedes the urgent focus of the local governments and of the U.S. officials on the scene is on the relief effort, not checking those lists. Unless they know someone for certain is missing, they're not so much a priority. That might sound cold, but given the scope and gravity of the effort, they say that's where the focus has to be, on what they know, not what people think.

ZAHN: The secretary of state isn't only man taking some heat over there. You have got the president's brother, Jeb Bush, also getting some pretty pointed questions about the perception that the president did too little, too late. How is he answering those critics?

KING: Well, U.S. officials, including Governor Jeb Bush, say that, on this trip, they believe they have silenced those critics.

The main criticism was that President Bush waited several days, three or four days, to speak out publicly about the tsunami. As we have traveled to Thailand, now here in Indonesia, government officials in both places have said that they were gratified by the prompt and the generous, as they call it, U.S. response.

I spoke to Governor Bush about this yesterday in Phuket, Thailand. He says, in his view, the criticism of his brother is grossly unfair.


KING: Did your brother make a mistake, do you think?

GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: No. I mean, I'll tell you that the prime minister here said he appreciated the call. The first call that the foreign minister got was from Secretary Powell. The response by the United States military has been impressive. I think that he's done exactly what he should do. And...


KING: So Jeb Bush there defending his brother, the president of the United States.

And, Paula, as this trip continues, it is today that Secretary Powell, Governor Bush, and others in the U.S. delegation will begin to see the broader scope of the damage, limited where they were in Thailand. They're heading out today to some of the most devastated parts here in Indonesia -- Paula.

KING: And we'll be counting on you every night this week to bring us all up to date on the mission. John King, thanks so much. Now, if any of you out there are waiting for word about a loved one in the tsunami-affected region, CNN would like to hear from you. We have set up a special number where you can tell us about your efforts to locate missing friends or relatives. That number is 404- 878-1500. We're going to leave that up on the screen if you haven't had time to pick up a pencil there. The phone lines will be staffed from 8:00 a.m. Eastern to 5:00 p.m. Eastern.

And after those hours, the line will connect to voice-mail.

I'll be back with my colleagues Anderson Cooper, Aaron Brown and Soledad O'Brien all on assignment tonight in the tsunami target zone.

And still ahead tonight, is there something more sinister behind this boy's disappearance, something more than the fury of nature?

Stay with us for that, along with more miraculous stories about the enduring human will to survive.

And U.S. military choppers swoop to help an isolated village in desperate need. An up-close look at the mission to bring aid to survivors.

Our CNN special report just getting started.


COOPER: One of the statistics that's so hard to imagine about this tragedy is that one-third, at least one-third of those who have died are children, the most vulnerable, the little kids who couldn't run fast enough out of the wave of the water, out of the way of the floating debris.

But now what we're hearing are some stories of children, not victimized by the disaster, not victimized by Mother Nature, but by victimized by people taking advantage of the situation.

ITN's Shiulie Ghosh reports on this. Take a look.


SHIULIE GHOSH, ITN REPORTER (voice-over): When the wave struck the coast of Thailand nine days ago, they not only ripped away lives, but tore thousands of families apart, parents from children, brother from sister.

Among the survivors were youngsters left injured, orphaned, traumatized and alone. Now Thai authorities are investigating the dreadful possibility that when some of these victims needed help the most, they may have fallen prey to child traffickers. The father of this boy, 12-year-old Kristian Walker, is desperately trying to discover if his son was one of those victims.

Kristian was on holiday in Khao Lak with his mother, now presumed dead, and his brother and sister, who were found safe in Phuket. Doctors at this hospital have confirmed they treated Kristian for minor injuries the day after the tsunami, but they say he left the hospital with a dark-haired European man and he hasn't been heard of since.

Swedish police are now treating Kristian's disappearance as a possible kidnapping. Aid agencies say children are particularly vulnerable to child snatchers in the chaotic aftermath of disasters. They have reported cases of local children being abducted by ruthless child sex traders, but this is a first time a Western child has been taken. It's a nightmare for any parent. Kristian's family are now doing all they can to trace him with the help of the Thai authorities.


COOPER: Hard to believe.

Dawn has broken here in Sri Lanka. One of the strange things, Paula, that happens here, as the sun comes up and the winds pick up, not only do you start to see the devastation more and more, but the smell also picks up. There's often -- a lot of the bodies have already been taken away, have been buried. But there's a lot of just rotting food, rotting meat, rotting fish, buried in this rubble.

And, as the sun comes up, and, as I said, as the wind picks up, the smell is often overpowering. We've suddenly just been hit by just a pretty powering aroma and we were wondering why there are so many flies around here. And we now realize there's a lot of rotting meat all in this area. It's just one of those strange things you don't see in the camera lens, but you feel very much and you smell and you hear very much on the ground here -- Paula.

ZAHN: Some of the pictures have been so graphic tonight, I think we are getting a sense of that.

How hot is it getting there during the hottest part of the day?

COOPER: Yes, it's not so bad right now, but it gets very hot very quickly. It gets up into the 90s. And, again, you're walking around in areas and people are living amidst the rubble of their former lives, and it really is the smell that gets to you.

And I think I said this last night. Really, it sticks in your clothes. It sticks in your nostrils. It sort of sticks in the back of your throat. And even if you clean, even if you wash, you can't get rid of it. It's a smell you smell all the time.

ZAHN: I can imagine a lot of you will be changed forever by what you've seen and what you've smelled.

Anderson, I am personally relieved that you are separated from that dog that was mauling you earlier on in the first half of our special. We'll be coming to you in just a little bit.

And we are happy, in contrast to some of what Anderson was just reporting, to tell you that there are still some miracles happening in all of this destruction, stunning stories of survival.

Here are a few of them.


ZAHN (voice-over): For four fishermen from Sumatra, the arrival of this Indian Coast Guard cutter was surely a sight of sore eyes. The badly sunburned men were first spotted by a helicopter after weathering the tsunami and drifting for nine days in a wooden dinghy boat with a makeshift sail, a broken engine and no food or water. Rescuers said the men could barely speak and could only say Indonesia when asked for their names.

You may remember seeing these heart-wrenching pictures in the first days after the tsunami, a crowd of beachgoers running away from the oncoming wall of water. But take a closer look. A woman is running directly toward the killer waves in a desperate attempt to warn family members who were in the water, unaware of the danger. Her identity and the family's fate remain unknown for a week.

But Swedish mother Karen Sparit (ph), her husband, three sons and other relatives are back home in Sweden and happy to report that somehow they all managed to survive with little more than a few scratches. Among all the death on India's ravaged coast, the beginning of new life. This tiny baby boy was due to arrive on January 15. But his mother went into premature labor hours after fleeing her coastal home on India's Hut Bay island.

Later that evening, Danita Roy (ph) gave birth to a son on a jungle hilltop, surrounded by her husband and 700 other survivors. Fearful of aftershocks, the family got by on bananas and coconut water for days, before even seeking medical attention. As for the baby's name, he'll be called Tsunami.


ZAHN: A lot of power in that little face.

Indonesia has suffered the most from the tsunamis. It's now estimated at least 94,000 people lost their lives there. The airport in Banda Aceh is the nerve center of the relief effort. And that is where we find Aaron Brown tonight, only here on CNN.

Aaron, what are the most pressing needs there tonight?

BROWN: Food, and water. It's pretty simple, food, water, and medicine, which is exactly what U.S. sailors are trying to get to people there.

You can see these young American sailors are loading these helicopters. There will be about 48 flights to mostly the western part of the island today. And you can see the water, the food being loaded in. It's a very impressive operation that's being coordinated by a very young -- he looks to be about 30-year-old American, USAID worker who we'll try and introduce you to at 10:00 tonight.

But, in truth, as impressive as it is, relative to the need of what is going on here, it is very small. Ultimately, there need to be large shipments. Trucks need to be able to move in, and right now there are no roads. There are no bridges in the western part of the island to get the kind of supplies that are necessary to the people who desperately need them -- Paula.

ZAHN: And you had about an 18-hour logjam earlier today, all because of a water buffalo. How did that slow things down?

BROWN: Well, it pretty much brought the major part of the relief effort to a halt. You've got one runway at this airport. You have the largest humanitarian effort in the history of humankind, and an airport that can barely handle three commercial planes in a day.

And when that plane went down, it sat on the runway for 18 hours. So the large shipments, the C-130 cargo planes that would bring large amounts of food, water, medicine, and the rest in, couldn't land. And so until it was towed, until they didn't.

ZAHN: Aaron Brown, we'll see you a little bit later on tonight. Thank you so much.

And with so many children swept away, as you saw earlier on in this hour, these sisters have a very good reason to smile. You're going to hear their incredible story of survival only here on CNN next.


ZAHN: In Thailand, the government today raised the death toll there to more than 5,000, with 3,800 still missing, most of them presumed dead.

Soledad O'Brien now joins me from Phuket. She's been on the ground there for almost a week now.

Good evening, Soledad.

I wanted you to share with us some of the sort of temporary I guess memorials that have popped up all over the town, with people posting pictures and phone numbers of those missing. What kind of effect is that having on those that still have a sliver of hope?

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: They've been calling -- it's a terrible sight to see frankly, Paula. They call it the wall, and it's essentially at the provincial center, which has become pretty much disaster central here in Thailand for this area in Phuket.

And what happens is, the tourists mainly will come by and either look at or post information or photos about someone who they are still searching for with contact information. It's a terribly sad place, as you can imagine. And it's mostly because you see these pictures of people who are invariably smiling and you know what fate has probably awaited them. In addition, you can see just how many families have been affected and potentially wiped out when you see a family photo.

And they'll circle three or four or five children who are still unaccounted for and, as you say, Paula, presumably dead. But hope springs eternal here. Many family members say they're just not giving up.

ZAHN: I guess that's about all they have to go on at this hour.

So, Soledad, I understand you took a trip out to Phi Phi Island, which is a very popular tourist resort. What did you see when you got there?

O'BRIEN: It's popular because Leonardo DiCaprio made a movie, "The Beach," at an island right next to it. And so, many tourists have gone there. Decimated, utterly decimated.

The thing about Phi Phi Island is, you have two rock formations with a strip of beach, very narrow in the middle. So, you basically have two fronts of the beach. When the tsunami ripped through, you had basically two waves at the same time. So people were running from one wave, and they're running directly into the other wave that was coming on the other side and literally running right into each other.

The number of people there who are missing and dead is just staggering, a terrible sight to see, utter devastation on that small island -- Paula.

ZAHN: Soledad O'Brien, numbers that we can't even comprehend. Thank you so much.

And I want to remind you all that you can tune into Soledad tomorrow morning, when she'll be co-anchoring "AMERICAN MORNING," getting under way at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time.

And in the Indian Ocean southwest of Sri Lanka are the Maldives, a chain of islands with about a quarter of a million residents. On the day after Christmas, three teenaged sisters from Britain were on vacation there with their family. The earthquake shook them awake, but they went back to sleep, only to be reawakened three hours later by the first wave of the tsunami. All three made it back safely to England.

And joining me now from Leeds to tell about their dramatic survival story are two of the Gibbons sisters, 15-year-old Emily, 17- year-old Hannah.

Welcome. You two are lucky to be alive.


ZAHN: So, Hannah, describe to us what happened when you heard the crushing sound of the first wave hitting the cabana where you were staying.

HANNAH GIBBONS, TSUNAMI SURVIVOR: Well, the first thing we knew about it, the water poured through our balcony door, because we had left it open by accident. And we just thought it was a freak, a big freak wave.

And so we just closed it. But we knew something was a bit wrong when the water kind of bubbled through our floor. And we jumped on to the beds and the water kept bubbling up. And we realized we kind of had to get out when the floor kind of crashed inwards and the TV fell down. So that's the first we knew about it really. We didn't know what it was, I don't think.

ZAHN: So, then, Hannah, what happened next? Then you found yourself outside of the bungalow in this big wash of water.

H. GIBBONS: Yes. It was about up to our chest. And there was a fire hose. All the walls of our bungalow had collapsed, apart from one, the wall facing inland, which was made of stone. And there was an emergency fire hose on it, so we grabbed onto that and we just waited until the waves went down a bit, but it was about five minutes that we were just grabbing on there.

ZAHN: Was there a point where you didn't think you would make it out alive?

H. GIBBONS: No, there never was, actually. We were surprisingly calm, because it just seemed ridiculous to scream because there was no one listening.

So we were just -- no, seriously, it didn't cross our minds that we were going to die. We just knew what we had to do really was just get back on to land. And that was our main priority.

ZAHN: But, Emily, you were seeing barrels wash by, raw sewage and even some victims right before your eyes.

EMILY GIBBONS, TSUNAMI SURVIVOR: Yes. It was all of our belongings. And everything that could be taken from the land, the water just washed away.

And so that about quite scary to see all of that come past you. But we just grabbed on, really, and we just hoped that everything would go away, because we didn't know what was happening and we just didn't think really what it could be until we got to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) really, and saw the TVs and saw the devastation that occurred.

ZAHN: And Hannah, we should explain when you were hanging on for your dear life to the fire hose you realize that your grandmother was probably in some peril. She had been walking on the beach and you weren't sure exactly where she had gone, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, that's right. Like we managed to find our parents after that, and we thought our grandmother would be with them. But it was awful to realize that she wasn't actually there, and she'd actually been walking along the beach when the waves had come, and she only a small woman. So obviously the tsunami had just taken her along with it. And we didn't find her for about an hour, after that, she was actually saved by a boat. And she'd fallen unconscious. So it was basically in the nick of time that they'd found her.

ZAHN: It is remarkable that your whole family made it out of there alive. Emily, now that you're back home and you understand what really happened to all of you, what is it that you reflect on the most? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's -- it just made me think how lucky we are to be alive. Because coming back home and seeing the pictures of the devastation it's caused in Indonesia and like that. It could have hit us so much worse. And we're so lucky to be alive and to be here now.

ZAHN: We're so appreciative, both of you could share your story with us tonight. Emily and Hannah Gibbons, good luck to your whole family and thanks again for joining us tonight.

I can't believe how lucky they were. And I'll be back with Anderson Cooper when our special report continues with the marines in another life-saving world. Battle-ready, but in full rescue mode. They're stepping up to the challenge. Warriors out to win hearts and save lives. Next.


COOPER: In this half hour, we're going it look at the U.S. military's efforts to bring relief to a devastated area -- Paula.

ZAHN: And Anderson will also be sharing with our audience an amazing story about a teacher who owes his life to an old hobby. He was saved by his magazine collection, and a good memory. His story in a little bit. But first, some of the other stories now in the news.

The governor of Iraq's Baghdad province was assassinated today along with one of his bodyguards. The roadside ambush was just one of several deadly incidents in Iraq. Others claimed the lives of four U.S. soldiers and one U.S. marine.

In other grim news out of Iraq, the Pentagon today reported that the number of American troops wounded since the war began has passed 10,000.

William Kennedy Smith off the hook again. A Chicago judge has dismissed a civil lawsuit by a former personal assistant, who had accused Smith of sexual assault, an allegation he repeatedly denied. The woman's attorney acknowledged her client kept on working for Smith, and continued on intimate terms with him. Smith is the nephew of Senator Edward Kennedy and was acquitted of sexual battery charge in Florida in 1991.

Now we go back to Anderson -- Anderson.

COOPER: Paula yesterday we were driving along Galle in southern Sri Lanka about three hours from where we are right now, and there was sitting right in the center of town, or just off of the main square, a U.S. Blackhawk helicopter. And so many people, hundreds of people, had gathered around to watch. It was sort of mystified and awed and surprised to see this U.S. chopper right in their town. It is of course the first wave of American military personnel, U.S. marines, bringing much needed aid to this devastated land. Satinder Bindra covered their arrival yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SATINDER BINDRA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The marines have landed. The world's most powerful military reaching out to a tiny island nation thrashed by a killer wave. The U.S. soldiers come laden with half a million pounds of relief, and tons of compassion for all Sri Lankans. Also touching down in the capital Colombo, this giant U.S. transport plane, it's loaded with food and in the next few days, many much such planes and marines will arrive.

SGT. STEVEN KIRSTEN, U.S. MARINE CORPS: We're here to help. We're here to help. Let us help, do our best.

BINDRA: Sergeant Steven Kirsten grew up in Florida, and is no stranger to nature's fury but he says what Sri Lanka has been through defies human imagination. Heading this mission of mercy is Brigadier General Frank Panner (ph). He says all Americans should be proud of what their soldiers are doing.

LT. COLONEL DARREN MARGOLIN, U.S. MARINE CORPS: This is something that maybe we can do. This is the type of thing that friends do for each other. And we're here to support them. And that's what it's all about.

BINDRA: Lieutenant Colonel Darren Margolin was part of the first batch of U.S. troops to touch down here. Now he welcomes the others and says they can't wait to get going.

MARGOLIN: What we've been asked to do has a large focus on distribution, moving some of the supply that's here, and engineering.

BINDRA: Engineering equipment is vital to get Sri Lanka's battered economy back on track. This C-5 brings in tons of such gear. Anywhere from 900 to 1,200 marines will eventually staff this relief operation. They'll be supported by a large ship, 12 helicopters and a hover craft. In the days to come, the remainder of the American engineering equipment, water purification plants and heavy lift helicopters will arrive here in the capital Colombo. Then after consultation with Sri Lankan authorities, the U.S. relief effort will focus in on southern Sri Lanka. This eyewitness video shows the horror of what happened in the southern city of Galle. Homes, machinery, and dozens of petrified children were sucked away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Feel real bad because if I lost anybody like that in an earthquake or anything, my family would be really affected by it. I know I would feel hurt. I want to help also.

BINDRA: It would take Sergeant Kirsten and his fellow marines approximately four days to offload all their materials and be fully deployed in the south. Waiting for them to arrive for almost ten days now are survivors like Ajid Preamptha (ph). As he rummages through the remnants of what was once his home, he says he can't stop thinking of his family members that have died. And all that he's lost. He and others here have no insurance. When it unleashed its fury, the sea targeted the poorest of the poor.

But he believes with American help, he can get a fresh start in life. I'm happy the marines are here, he says, but would feel even better if they gave me something for survival. As the sun dips into the horizon he heads away from these golden beaches. Even with the Americans to support him, he's scared. Petrified of an ocean that in just a matter of hours savaged his country, causing its worst natural disaster.


BINDRA: Now, Paula, other than the marines, several other countries also helping the Sri Lankans. I'm standing at ground zero of the air relief operation. As you can see in this live and exclusive shot, several aircraft coming here on average, seven to ten aircraft landing at Sri Lanka's Colombo airport, to bring in about 300 tons of supplies. These supplies are then taken from here to a warehouse to where they're loaded onto helicopters and to other ground transport before the distribution process begins. Back to you.

COOPER: Satinder, thanks very much. The U.S. military humanitarian mission also continues off the coast of Indonesia. Tonight, a -- the USS Lincoln, ready to bring much-needed aid to the area of Banda Aceh and elsewhere throughout Indonesia. Atika Shubert is covering that side of the story.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is Helasron 2 (ph), the helicopter squadron on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. The squadron plays a critical flow in the flow of aid to Aceh's hardest hit and most inaccessible regions.

Before dawn, pilots are briefed on the day's mission in the Helasron 2 (ph) ready room.

Lt. Commander Mark Leavitt has been flying to Aceh's devastated west coast for the last three days.

He starts at the Banda Aceh Airport, transporting anything from food and water to medical teams. Indonesia's military pitches in with coordination and a helping hand.

So far, Helasron 2 (ph) has delivered more than 100,000 pounds of aid. It can be harrowing, he says, delivering supplies to desperate people.

LT. CMDR. MARK LEAVITT, HELICOPTER PILOT: And they're very excited to see us, oftentimes running up underneath the helicopter, running around the tail rotor. So you're a little afraid at first, and then you see a body or you see someone that's severely hurt, and you're brought back to the reality of what had -- of what had happened there. So it's a range of emotions every day you fly here.

SHUBERT: This Indonesian soldier broke his leg a week ago in the tsunami. Helasron 2 (ph) will deliver him to a hospital before returning to the Lincoln for the night. (on camera) This is a 24-hour operation. For every one hour of flight, there are 15 hours of maintenance. Mechanics work through the night so helicopters can fly during the day.

(voice-over) In the pitch darkness of the flight deck, a crew of five to seven mechanics checks every part while pilots rest. It is grueling work: 12-hour shifts, five hours per helicopter, each aircraft worked on simultaneously.

JOSEPH COELHO, HELICOPTER MECHANIC: It is a rush to try and get these aircraft turned around and maintained and get back out there to do the mission. But at the same time, we want to be safe and do it slowly enough to make sure we're not overlooking any steps.

SHUBERT: Getting enough rest on an aircraft carrier can be difficult, even for pilots. And then, there's the worry.

LEAVITT: Knowing people that are out there having problems living through the night makes it hard to sleep.

SHUBERT: But sleep, they must. Helasron 2 (ph) is still needed tomorrow.


SHUBERT: Anderson, you have to forgive me for yelling a little bit. As you can see, we're right on the airstrip where Navy Seahawks are landing, delivering that crucial aid.

I can't stress enough these are really the critical element to getting relief to those inaccessible areas. Now as you know, Secretary Colin Powell is due to arrive here later today. This relief mission will continue while he's here, because frankly, they're making up for lost time, trying to get to as many survivors as they can before it's too late -- Anderson.

COOPER: Atika, thanks very much.

And Atika raises an excellent point. The key is getting the aid to those hard-to-reach areas, and it a difficult job whether it's in Indonesia or right here in Sri Lanka.

One man who has been doing that job for four years here, he's been here in Sri Lanka for 12, but four years with Oxfam Great Britain is my guest Phil Esmonde.

Thanks very much for being with us.


COOPER: We heard these stories about bottlenecks in the aid, of bureaucratic delays. How bad is it?

ESMONDE: Well, there are bottlenecks. There's no question about it, but as you can see, the whole system is overwhelmed, completely overwhelmed. We brought in a plane last week from the U.K. with water sanitation equipment. It had to stop for two hours in Jarja (ph) because they needed a tow bar, because there wasn't enough tow bars at the airport.

COOPER: Something as basic as that can delay something for hours?

ESMONDE: Exactly. It's a capacity question. The airport is handling 60 planes a day, we understand, and their capacity is 16. So they're very hard-pressed.

So as you can see, the whole structure has been overwhelmed. The government has been overwhelmed in terms of responding. To coordinate, you need good information. The information hasn't flowed quickly just because of the nature of this disaster.

COOPER: And one of your people from Oxfam was in a town farther south of here, where the government official, I mean his office was gone. He was actually sitting under a tree.

ESMONDE: Correct, he was literally sitting under a tree. He's the government. He's the chief government representative in the district of Math Ra. The government office was complete wiped away. The data on the community is gone.

So there were students from the university in the south going into the community and recollecting the data on who is in the community.

COOPER: The greatest need that you so right now is what, water?

ESMONDE: Water, sanitation, toilets, hygiene, education. Some shelter. But it's still, we're waiting for the government to say exactly how close people can go back to the shore in terms of resettling. Those are big issues.

COOPER: Do -- do you know how big the need is? I mean, do you have a sense of what's happening in outlying areas, hard to reach areas?

ESMONDE: Well, we work in -- we have offices in four areas in the north and the east, and we're opening an office in the south. We've been operating in the country for 25 years.

Very isolated communities. It's still difficult in some places in the east to get into communities. They're still isolated.

Plus as you know, the floods in the east, and just four weeks before this catastrophe, there were immense floods in the east that we responded to. So these people are just being hit by tragedy after tragedy.

COOPER: So frustrating to see the need and to not see, you know, immediate relief, but that's the way it always works. ESMONDE: Well, we have been getting immediate relief through our offices on the ground. Oxfam has -- we have water sanitation. We've set up water distribution points in the east.

Our staff, who were affected, responded immediately, because they're professional. Even though they had their homes wiped out, their family. Luckily, no one was killed, but all around them was tragedy. But they responded professionally, and I think that's what aid is about.

COOPER: It certainly is. Phil Esmonde, we appreciate you joining us from Oxfam Great Britain.

ESMONDE: Thank you for the time.

COOPER: Paula.

ZAHN: We are certainly rooting for those relief workers.

Anderson and I will be back in just a moment. Up next on our special report, how the Internet is proving to be a powerful tool in the search for information about the missing.


ZAHN: OK, some powerful images of some of the great humanitarian work going on at this hour in South Asia.

Tens of thousands of people have e-mailed with questions about tsunami relief, and of course finding loved ones. And visitors to the web site have created a kind of instant community, offering some advice, support, and helping reunite some survivors with family members.

Joining us again tonight, QuickCast anchor, Veronica De La Cruz.

Veronica, we have not been able to tell too many stories with happy endings in the last seven days or so. But you have one for us tonight. What happened?

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN.COM QUICKCAST ANCHOR: We do. This one coming in from Doug, Paula. Great ending here., like you said, becoming an instant community for many of these people.

Doug sent us an e-mail on the 27th, and in it, he says, "I'm trying to locate my roommate and his friend, who are traveling in southern India along the coast. I haven't been able to reach them. Their names are Carlos and Robert. Last known location was south India on the Arabian Sea. Thanks."

ZAHN: What happened after Doug posted that?

DE LA CRUZ: Well, after Doug posted this, he received tons of responses from complete strangers. Somebody offering help on the geography of the country, another person posting phone numbers to the local police precinct.

And of course, he was receiving e-mails of love and support. This one coming in from a complete stranger, saying, "I just wanted you to know that my family's thoughts and prayers will be with you. If there is anything we can help with, please let me know."

So, Paula, four grueling days passed and finally, on New Year's, he receives this. It's a response from his friend, saying, "Hi, Doug, and happy new year. Thank you for your concern about us. Thank God we are fine here. Hope everything is OK with you."

ZAHN: That is certainly the response thousand of Americans are waiting to hear, those who are hanging onto a sliver of hope. Veronica De La Cruz, thanks so much.

And if you're looking for a missing loved one or want to learn more about the relief effort, you can log onto to send a message. You can also e-mail us at

And whether you believe in fate or not, our next story will give you something to think about. How a curious mind and a simple magazine worked miracles and saved dozens of lives. That's right after this short break.


COOPER: Sri Lanka is a deeply religious society, whether it's Muslim, Buddhist or Christian, people talk here about miracles. Everywhere you go, people say they have seen miracles.

CNN's Harris Whitbeck has the story of one town and a man they believe is a miracle.


HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Munwan, the English teacher in the village of Kenia (ph), shows off the magazine he says saves his life and those of dozens of others.

As a young man, he started collecting old British and American magazines his uncle would bring him from trips from Colombo, the Sri Lanka capital. He'd spend all of his money on books and magazines, earning the wrath of his mother.

MUNWAN, TEACHER: They say go earn money. Earn money for your family. You want to go after money, you will like (ph). You better do something constructive, things to family.

WHITBECK: Almost exactly 10 years ago, he read an article about tsunamis. And what he read stuck in his mind.

MUNWAN: I have a great memory power. People actually call me Dictionary.

WHITBECK: The day of the disaster, Munwan was on the local ferry dock buying fish when he noticed something strange in the water. MUNWAN: The water was raising three -- two or three meters. Then all of a sudden, raising, the water coming like...

WHITBECK (on camera): Munwan says that when he saw the water levels rise, he started running inland. He says that many people shouted after him, saying that he was crazy. But he says between 20 and 30 people followed him, and he says they survived.

MUNWAN: I hope to be to become a scientific person.

WHITBECK: Today Munwan is a hero in his town, heroism he attributes to his passion for reading and to his long memory. Now he says he'd like to become a scientist.

Harris Whitbeck, CNN, Kenia (ph), Sri Lanka.


COOPER: A small town hero here in Sri Lanka -- Paula.

ZAHN: Stories are so hard to believe, but I guess when you see them, you absorb them. Thank so much, Anderson.

This disaster has been so much about the children so far: the ones lost, the ones who survived. And joining us from some amazing stories about them in a CNN special, "SAVING THE CHILDREN," that will air at 10 p.m. Eastern Thursday night.

Larry King's coming up at top of the hour with much more on the tsunami.

Larry, I don't know how you could top last night's show. You had two presidents overseeing this enormous fund-raising effort. What have you got up your sleeve tonight? Or under those brows?


We have on the agent for that super model who survived and apparently her fiance did not. We also have other survivors. We've got reporters, journalists, doctors, experts. We've got a crammed full hour, Paula, but mostly we're following you.

ZAHN: That's so kind of you, Larry, and we'll be watching you. See you again.

KING: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: A couple of minutes. We're going to take a short break. Please stay right here. We're going to be back with some of Anderson's closing thoughts right after this.


ZAHN: And Anderson and I are back now again.

Anderson, as you've been reporting from Sri Lanka, you no doubt have seen things that are going to stay with you for a very long time. Why don't you share some of those with us tonight?

COOPER: Yes, Paula, I've been traveling around not only with a great cameraman, Phil, but we've been just bringing around our own DV- camera, our own little home video camera and sort of taping thoughts as we go. Sort of a reporters' notebook. Here's our first installment tonight.


COOPER (voice-over): With each new morning, with each new tide there's no telling what you'll find washed up on the beach.

(on camera) It's only 8:30 in the morning. The sun is already high in the sky and it's getting pretty hot. Every morning you find Sri Lankan villagers walking along the water's edge. They're looking for bodies.

Last week, these waters, which took away so many are this week finally giving back.

(voice-over) A child's sandal washed up overnight. Not exactly what stray dogs were hoping for.

(on camera) The water is so close in so many of these resorts, it just swept across, demolishing buildings. Now there are no people left. All you see are these stray animals.

Even some of the animals here have a strange bewildered, dazed look in their eyes. You see them everywhere, stray dogs and cats roaming, searching through the rubble, trying to find something to eat.

It's easy almost to become jaded to it all. There's so much debris. There's so much wreckage. I mean, it's just it's foot after foot, block after block, street after street. It just keeps going on and on.

And you wonder how, when is this stuff ever going to get cleaned up? There's not any heavy equipment, really, around here. You see a few bulldozers from time to time, but there's just so much stuff. Business cards and people's clothing.

"Hilda's tailors, expert in ladies' and gent's garments."

As you walk through rubble, you often have a hard time seeing things in the rubble, but you smell it. There's an overwhelming smell of rotting meat here. And there's something covered up in plastic in there. That's covered in maggots, and actually maggots are everywhere, all over here.

This is the -- they said that only one person was killed here and that person's already been taken away. So it's either an animal or perhaps some raw meat that they had. But it's -- the smell is quite overwhelming.

(voice-over) The holiday signs still hang at this beach hotel, "Season's Greetings" from an unforgettable place.


COOPER: And, Paula, as we saw a little earlier tonight, those dogs can be quite friendly at times.

ZAHN: Yes, for the folks who missed that dog's surprise appearance, in the first hour of our broadcast, we had to let you go off the air. That was one crazy dog.

But Anderson, your reporting tonight has given us a really good sense of the enormity of the challenge there. Look forward to seeing you again a little bit later here tonight. That wraps up our CNN SPECIAL REPORT.

Anderson Cooper, Aaron Brown, Soledad O'Brien, John King, 18 correspondents in all, we will all be back at 10 p.m. Eastern as our CNN SPECIAL REPORT continues. But "LARRY KING LIVE" begins now.


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