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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

U.S. Volunteer Goes to Indonesia on His Own to Help; New York Family Waits for Word of Missing Family Member

Aired January 5, 2005 - 22:00   ET

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


AARON BROWN, HOST: Yes, it's just coming up on ten o'clock in the morning here. We're 12 hours ahead of Eastern Time in the United States.
I was struck by the question, Larry, you asked Matt about what's it like to cover something like this? In this place that was hit by both the tsunami and the earthquake, I've been doing this work for 30 years, I have never experienced anything like I experienced in the last 48 hours.

The level of damage, the loss of life, the totality of the destruction, the dazed look in people's eyes two weeks later, I just -- it leaves you breathless and speechless and in some respects like the people living through it in a state of shock.

KING: What is that building over your left shoulder?

BROWN: Well, this used to be the Central Market. There's a river in front of us. That was the Central Market. It would have been pretty crowded on Sunday morning about 8:30 in the morning when the tsunami hit.

As you can tell, almost no work has been done here to clear any of this out. Today for the first time there's some heavy equipment that came in that's just starting to get rid of some of this debris.

But I don't know 15 minutes before we started to talk, a body floated down the river to give you an idea of I guess while, yes, some things are underway, in many respects we're still in the midst of the worst of it.

KING: Aaron Brown, thank you so much. Carry on my friend, Aaron Brown hosting TURNING THE TIDE as he continues now from Banda Aceh, Indonesia -- Aaron.

BROWN: Larry, thank you.

Good evening again.

All this talk of despair and in the hour ahead I suppose there will be plenty of it but it's not where we start. In fact, we start on the flipside of it all. We start almost literally where we ended with you 24 hours ago, the story of one man and his journey to the worst natural disaster of our lifetime.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN (voice-over): An hour after arriving in a place he had no business going to in the first place, Bob Bell, a financial consultant from New Hampshire, with training as a paramedic, was tending to a 16- year-old amputee. How he came to this moment is in some ways as interesting as the moment itself.

ROBERT BELL, U.S. VOLUNTEER: It started as just kind of a thought at night on the Internet with the kids asleep and the plan just literally fell into place. The candid answer without trying to jam my religion down anybody is, you know, it's really, for me personally it's really -- it's really walking the walk and walking the talk.

You know you see a lot of athletes and a lot of people with, "What Would Jesus Do" bracelets around and I've worn one for a long while and I'm not trying to sound like anything funny but literally that's how it kind of unfolded.

BROWN: So, knowing no one, no connections to any group, he flew to Jakarta on his own, made calls, found a group willing to take him on and an hour later he was, as he would say, walking the walk. What were you confronted with?

BELL: Immediately I mean there were literally, there was no time for introductions. It was kind of hello, hello, and then one of the docs just said you need to get on that truck.

BROWN: And what was on that truck?

BELL: We were emptying the trucks that you see behind us here that are cargo carriers. We drove into the city, into Aceh and went to the clinics where these people have been essentially, you know, from the time the tsunamis hit until present have been sitting in these clinics.

BROWN: To this point the kind of care they had gotten was what?

BELL: I think the kind of care that they got, the fair answer to that is the very, very best that could be given under these conditions and I honestly would not have wanted to be in the position of these docs making the calls that they had to make.

BROWN: The calls they had to make were amputations without anesthetic. Everyone in that tent an amputee, everyone in that tent teaching Bob Bell something about life itself.

BELL: This is the human spirit defined in this country at this time. These are people that despite unbelievable personal injuries and unbelievable conditions and nothing to go back to have decided to live and they're doing everything they possibly can to drive forward.

I mean this is the epitome of the human spirit and it is -- it's more than humbling to watch these people because I don't understand a word they say. All I can do is watch. It's very helpless.

Now, he's OK. He's doing all right, huh?

BROWN: Just before sundown at the end of a long and draining day, Bob's 16-year-old and the rest from the tent are placed gently on stretchers, carried to the tarmac and a cargo plane that will take them to a real hospital.

Bob will never see the 16-year-old again but tomorrow and for the next three weeks there will be others and then Bob goes home, back to his life, back to his three kids, lessons learned and lessons taught.

What do you want your kids to learn from this?

BELL: There are kids' moms and dads right now that are going away for six months, nine months, 12 months at a time that are going into wartime situations that may or may not come home.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: In an effort to get Bob to agree to do the story, he made me promise that I wouldn't make him out to be some sort of hero. You, however, are free to think of him anyway you choose.

We're joined this hour by Anderson Cooper who is in Sri Lanka. Paula Zahn is in New York. Anderson, I get the feeling here and I wonder if it's true there that we are in now that kind of slow, repetitive grind of a relief operation.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, I absolutely think you're right and, Aaron, I'm under no such limitations because you promised that young man you wouldn't use that word but that was a remarkable story about an incredibly remarkable young man.

I know there are many Americans. We were getting e-mails all last week from Americans saying they wish they could have done the very same thing. It's an honorable thing to see one young man who actually just got up and did it and that he's already making a difference.

You're right, Aaron, there is a sense of a slow grinding relief effort. Two signs of that I just saw in the last several minutes. A Sri Lankan military helicopter just flew over. That's really only about the third helicopter I've seen in the four or five days that I've been here.

The second sign, a Sri Lankan military patrol just walked down the beach. I've been on this beach every morning now for several days and that is the first time I have ever seen that. The Sri Lankan military has taken over the relief effort, the rebuilding effort here and so you are starting to see an up tick in the effort.

But what is so frustrating, Aaron, for people here and you hear this from mothers who are searching for their dead children, for fathers who are looking for their little boys and sisters looking for their brothers is that there is no one place that people can go to find out information or to look at pictures of those who have already been found. The dead have been buried. They've been photographed but those photographs are nowhere to be found. The central government talks about compiling them together, putting them in some sort of a book.

But it's been almost two weeks and there's no book to be found in a hospital or a government office and that is very frustrating for people here. It makes the disaster still a disaster in the hearts of the people who are searching for their loved ones, Aaron.

BROWN: In some respects they are still way ahead of the people in Aceh. At least somewhere there is a book. At least somewhere there are pictures. In this city today on streets all around it, there are still bodies covered in tarps, floating down rivers, have not been collected, will not be collected for months.

Paula, Anderson sees this story through one lens. I see it through the lens of Indonesia. In some respects you have the best view of the whole thing. Are there common strains that you see working through it?

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I guess what you see so vividly from here through all the graphic pictures you've shared with us over the last 48 hours and what Anderson shared with us is the contrast and the enormous sense of loss you talk about.

And yet by the same token the sliver of hope you see some family's members hanging onto and then, you know, 20 minutes later you hear another one of these horrific stories about whole families wiped out.

I guess the hardest thing from here to get our arms wrapped around are the sheer numbers, the death toll from the tsunami stands at nearly 156,000 with thousands more missing, many of them presumed dead. And the State Department is now saying it believes that 36 Americans have died, though more than 3,500 remain unaccounted for.

Tonight, another story of waiting, here's Jason Carroll.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On December 21st, Rule Bernard (ph) sent an e-mail to his family in Woodstock, New York. "Greetings from the beautiful little island of Bali. I'll write again soon and call."

MICHAEL BERNARD: And that's the last we've heard.

MARY LARSON, MOTHER: It's terrible. It's the worst. It's much better to know.

CARROLL: Rule and his girlfriend Akiyo Kowabota (ph) had planned to visit Sumatra.

BERNARD: And I said, "You mean where they've had all that fighting?" And he said, "Yes, but we're going to avoid the fighting."

CARROLL: His family says that sums up Rule.

BERNARD: Rule has always been an odd character. He looks scruffy. He's one of those people that if you passed him on the road hitchhiking you'd think three times about picking him up but everybody loves him instantly.

CARROLL: Rule has traveled his whole life and founded Building Communities Across Cultures, building housing in poor areas of Latin America.

BRIAN DEFED, GLOBAL WORKS: He is such a hard worker and he's so dedicated and I wouldn't be surprised if he's there giving everything that he's got, and I really hope he's there doing the best he can.

CARROLL: Rule's daughter Kaitlin at college in upstate New York has been on the phone about her father every day.

KAITLIN BERNARD, DAUGHTER: I think (UNINTELLIGIBLE) well it's just been a few days. I'm sure there's no phones and things like that but I think if it gets like later and later it's just like less likely that he's going to call I guess.

LARSON: There's no time frame. That isn't how it's played. We don't know how long it will be. Worst case scenario we'll never know.

CARROLL: A scenario now faced by thousands of families.

Jason Carroll CNN, Woodstock, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Painful to watch whenever you hear any of those stories.

It is already Thursday in Jakarta where world leaders are meeting to discuss tsunami aid, among them, of course, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who got there a short time ago. He has been touring the devastated region for the past three days and has been very affected by what he has seen, a war veteran saying he's never seen anything like what he's seen over the last 24 hours or so.

CNN's John King is traveling with him. He joins us now. John, before we come back to the secretary of state, I wanted you to help us better understand what this conference is really going to accomplish when you have 13 different countries involved in the distribution of aid. What can you really expect to be accomplished?

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, what they are hoping, Paula, is to develop a plan, both for the short term, today, tomorrow and into the next week and the long term, months down the road, the U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan moments ago saying to the conference that early warning systems and prevention of this must become a priority. That is one important mission.

Some say for only for a few hundred million dollars you could have had the technology in place, the sensors to warn people this was coming and, in most of the areas, they say with that warning you could have saved lives by the tens of thousands. Many of the areas are much more remote. It is an open question as to whether any warning system would have helped at all.

So, that is the long term issue can we develop a system in the South China Sea, in the Indian Ocean so that if this ever happens again, God forbid, you can warn people what is coming.

But one worry that Secretary Powell has at this meeting is that as people talk about that they need to spend more time on the today and tomorrow. There is more money in the system than anyone needs right now, officials say, but there are problems, as Aaron and Anderson were just telling you.

Local officials to develop good rosters for the dead, local officials to develop good networks of distribution, whether it be water, food, medicine, money simply to put in people's pockets so they have something to do, so you have to get all the governments affected involved and all of them to make their case for what they need and those needs are very different.

And then you have to get all the generous nations who are here saying they will give hundreds of millions of dollars to decide how quickly they can spend it, what they will spend it on and who do they coordinate with? That is the biggest issue.

In many of these remote areas very hard for people back home in the United States to understand they're bringing aid in. They're plopping it down on airport tarmacs. They simply do not know who to contact to distribute it to those most in need. It is an awesome and very depressing actually challenge -- Paula.

ZAHN: I think you pointed out in earlier reports there is a sort of competitiveness among some of these nations, which also can make this mission far more complicated. John King joining us live from Jakarta, Indonesia -- back to Aaron now -- Aaron.

BROWN: Paula, thank you.

We'll take a break. When we come back we'll talk with the emergency response director of CARE. Government agencies are here. NGOs are here, all need to talk to each other.

Our special coverage continues in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is a CNN Special Report. Here again from Indonesia, Aaron Brown.

BROWN: I'm not hearing anything so I wouldn't know. Well, I don't think I was supposed to be hearing anything yet.

I guess the overwhelming nature of all of this, the overwhelming nature of the catastrophe itself and now the overwhelming nature of the response to the catastrophe, government agencies, non-government agencies. Titon Mitra, the Emergency Response Director for CARE, every NGO of scope is on this island right now. How are you -- do you coordinate with each other? How do you avoid stepping on each other or duplicating each other?

TITON MITRA, CARE INTERNATIONAL: I think we've learned a lot from Rwanda times when everyone was in heavy competition to provide assistance. But, as you said, the scale of the destruction here is enormous but there's plenty of room for people to apply their particular specialized agents.

The U.N. is starting to play a very strong role in coordinating the non-government organizations and what generally happens is you try to identify sectors of your specialization and depending on that you're allocated particular sectors to deal with. Geographically the area is divided.

BROWN: Yes.

MITRA: So what you try to do is try to integrate capacities of the various NGOs and the U.N. assistance so the best possible response can be mounted.

BROWN: And is there somewhere every day a meeting that goes on between CARE and Mercy and this group and the U.N. and that group to say, OK, today we need to accomplish this?

MITRA: Indeed. Every day there's an update of the situation. Sectoral groups meet to discuss what the critical needs are. There's a broader meeting which brings in all the organizations to make sure everyone is on the same page and then everyone gets out in the same time trying to do the business of delivering relief assistance.

BROWN: The general sense over the last 48 hours or so is that in fact there is plenty of stuff. There's plenty of water. There's plenty of food. There's plenty of medicine here. The problem is getting it to people, agreed?

MITRA: Indeed. I think the problem is the pipelines. At the moment, there certainly is enough for the community, but remember you have to maintain this because these people have lost their livelihoods. So, for us, we're trying to distribute safe water systems right throughout Aceh.

But, as you said, the critical point is some of these areas which are inaccessible. We need air assets really to get there or even the shipping options are limited because we can't land the craft on the shore and really there is a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of air assets.

BROWN: What you have, we see these helicopters going out, Navy helicopters, fair to describe it as relief triage?

MITRA: Indeed, indeed. But it is important though because at least people have some degree of reassurance that there's some aid coming to them. What clearly needs to happen now is to build on that start. Certainly they've been providing some degree of assistance. So we really need to get in with the community and start providing some assistance, which will go into the long term. Remember, this is a relief operation for the short term but the rehabilitation needs are absolutely mammoth.

BROWN: Just one more, I mean particularly in these remote areas of the western part of the island, we've flown over them and we haven't really gotten to see them from the land. When do you expect to get in there?

MITRA: Well, it really is a question of logistics. The roads, as you know, are cut off and at the moment without the air assets all we can do is assess the situation, provide some minimal assistance.

But until we can get heavy lift choppers to be able to land in these areas, really substantial assistance is some way off. But that does not mean in other areas where accessibility is possible that we can't get the assistance in and we are trying to find those areas.

BROWN: I appreciate your joining us and appreciate your efforts.

MITRA: My pleasure. Thank you.

BROWN: Thank you.

Soledad O'Brien joins us from Thailand where she has been covering that side of the story -- Soledad, good morning.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, good morning to you.

We hear it again and again the depth of loss is so huge. For survivors to some degree many of them are sort of trapped here. They cannot leave because they are searching for any news and any hope of a loved one. That is the case of one man. His name is Anders Ericcson. He's from Norway and he is searching for his 2-1/2-year-old son. Here's his story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERS ERICSSON, MISSING BOY'S FATHER: When the wave hit, it first smashed the windows of the second floor and in a moment the concrete wall was busted and we were flushed out of the room.

I was holding my son in my arms and he had these blue swimming arms on him and the last thing he said to me is "Daddy, I'm scared. Please help." We were flushed out and caught in the debris and the water was crazy. You were up. You were down. You were underneath swimming around with cars, refrigerators, furniture, fallen down trees and everything else.

The palm trees came on us. We were traveling in this wave in 30 to 35 kilometers per hour and we went above the palm trees. The palm trees was just small bushes sticking up. I tried to change, to grip Ragnar and I lost him and since he was smaller than me he just drifted away from me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: It was the last time he saw his son. You know you hear the survivors who are looking for a loved one recount and recite. Here's who I'm looking for. These are the circumstances on how they disappeared. But what you really here is I think the sense of guilt that they feel. "I had my son in my arms and I lost him. I dropped him."

Another story, "I had my sister's hand. I almost had her and I let go at the wrong moment." And the stories, I mean, I tell you they're just utterly heartbreaking to hear. You don't have to be a psychologist to know that this is the kind of trauma that these families will just never get over, never ever -- Aaron.

BROWN: Just listening to him talk, I can't see his face. I can't really imagine what he looks like but I had a sense of his eyes and the sorrow that must have been there. It's a sorrow we see an awful lot around us on this part of this disaster as well. Soledad thank you.

We'll take a break. Other things did happen in the world today. When we come back, Paula Zahn takes a look at some of them.

CNN's continuing coverage of the tsunami disaster continues in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Welcome back to our special report. We will have more coverage on the deadly tsunami in just a moment, but, first, some of the other stories now in the news.

In Iraq, more deadly attacks. At least 10 people were killed CNN in Hillah, south of Baghdad, after a car bomb exploded outside a police academy; 44 others were wounded. Earlier, insurgents assassinated the security chief of Iraq's Election Commission. Despite the continuing bloodshed, Iraqi officials maintain the upcoming elections will be held on time at the end of the month.

Words of warning about troop strength in Iraq and Afghanistan, this time from a general in the Army Reserves. In a memo written just last December, Lieutenant General James Helmly claimed the Pentagon is overworking the Reserves and that could prevent the force from carrying out future missions.

Corporal Wassef Ali Hassoun has disappeared again. Last June, he vanished from a Marine camp in Falluja. First, it looked like he was kidnapped by terrorists. But after he was found alive in Lebanon and brought back to the United States, he was charged with desertion. Well, he's AWOL again. He was supposed to report to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina on Tuesday. Officials believe he has now returned to Lebanon.

The military has launched an investigation into possible prisoner abuse at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Recently released FBI documents claim several employees at the camp witnessed some form of mistreatment. Well, the year 2005 is a special year for CNN. It marks our 25th year covering news all over the country, all over the world 24 hours a day. So, tonight, we launch a year-long anniversary series called "Then and Now," looking back at the stories that have affected all of our lives.

We begin tonight in July of 2002. Nine coal miners in Somerset, Pennsylvania, trapped underground for days.

Here's their story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All nine are alive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first miner has been pulled from the mine. His name is Randy Fogle.

RANDY FOGLE, SURVIVOR: That's just awesome. To know you can see another sunrise or have another day with your family.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Number two miner at 1:15 a. m. Harry Mayhugh

HARRY BLAINE MAYHUGH, SURVIVOR: There still isn't a day that goes by that you don't think of what happened, what could have happened. Just your outlook on life is a lot better.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ninth and final miner.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His name is Mark Popernack.

MARK POPERNACK, SURVIVOR: When I first got out of the mine, I wouldn't even step on an ant walking down the sidewalk because it was something that God created and that was life and I didn't want to take that away.

MAYHUGH: No, haven't worked in the mines ever since the incident.

FOGLE: I stayed out of the mines for six months after the accident. Then I went back to work and that's what I've been doing ever since. I work underground all the time.

POPERNACK: When Randy went back to the mines I was going to go back also. And that night, my oldest son Lucas had nightmares about it. And I just decided right then that I wasn't going to go back underground because it affected my kids so much.

FOGLE: There is a lot of technology and a lot of manpower with all the people working up there. But there had to be a higher power, I do believe.

POPERNACK: Life is precious and we got a second chance at it and we don't forget it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: An incredible story of survival and lives changed forever.

All year long, CNN will look back at the major stories from over the last 25 years, giving us all a chance to find out what happened to yesterday's newsmakers.

Still to come on our special tsunami coverage tonight, we'll check back with in Aaron Brown in Sumatra, Anderson Cooper in Sri Lanka for the latest from the ground.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Back behind us, I'm not sure how well you can see it, but there's a team of Indonesian soldiers who are with body bags in hand going through the rubble looking for the remains from the tsunami.

This was a crowded central market square when the tsunami hit. It's nothing now, of course. It's just rubble. And yet, 10 days afterwards, they are getting their first good look at what is underneath it all, which gives you an idea of how overwhelming this has been for the Indonesian government.

CNN's Beth Nissen is here.

You were in Jakarta. You heard the briefings. The government acknowledges, I gather, that it is, in fact, or was, in fact, overwhelmed.

BETH NISSEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is overwhelmed.

And part of the problem is that the local officials here they rely on for information are killed or missing. One of the doctors with International Rescue Committee, the group with whom we're traveling, said last night that the Banda Aceh Ministry of Health, it's gone.

BROWN: There's an irony in all of this, that we have lots of supplies here in Aceh. We, in fact, have too many doctors here.

NISSEN: We have an oversupply of surgeons, of doctors.

One of the U.N. helicopter surveillance teams that went out today assigned a doctor the job of looking at water supply and trying to take some tests on water -- saline in the water. That's not what he's trained to do, but that's what he's needed to do.

BROWN: And it's not that they think there are too few injured -- correct me -- it's that they don't still know what they have.

NISSEN: They don't. There's a terrible lack of information. That's the most serious health problem in Banda Aceh and elsewhere right now is a lack of information. They don't know how many survivors there are. They don't know where those survivors are.

Some of the survivors have gone from the coastal areas inland. Many are arriving from in Banda Aceh from outlying areas every day. There are between 50,000 and 70,000 displaced persons here.

BROWN: And yet they worry that there's too much focus on the provincial capital and not enough focus on these small outlying areas, from which people are streaming.

NISSEN: It's a double-edged sword. They have to pay attention to Banda Aceh, because so many people are streaming in here.

At the same time, there is a black hole of information -- that's the word they -- the term they used -- on what's happening in coastal areas along the southwest coast, and especially in the interior.

BROWN: Nissen, thank you -- Beth Nissen with us here in Aceh.

There was, as we were driving through town yesterday, a small market had opened. It was the first sign we had seen of anything approaching normal. And it does mark a moment in these tragedies.

Anderson Cooper is in Sri Lanka.

Are you starting to get any sense of normalcy there?

COOPER: Yes, we are, actually. And it's really, I can say, this morning for the first time -- I mentioned some of the military patrols we've seen -- but a sign of some small amount of normalcy returning.

If you look behind me, there are two men out there with fishing poles. It looks like one of them has caught at least three or four fish. It's a very small thing, a very small sign. But this is the first morning where we've actually seen fishermen going back to the sea. There are so many fishing boats which are literally just washed up on the shores. They're tossed around like children's boats, something a kid would play with in a bathtub.

They're on the road, blocking roads in some places. So, to actually see fishermen returning to the sea, we've all actually kind of just been standing around marveling at it. It's such a small little thing, but it means so much on this island which has had so little to celebrate, which has so little to hope for.

Yesterday, I talked to a fishmonger, a guy who makes his living buying the fish that the fishermen catch and selling it locally in a local village. He lost a child in a terrible incident with the tsunami. His child was killed, along with 15 other children in a temple. And the fishmonger said to me, I have to find another new line of work. I never want to see the sea again. I cannot face the ocean again. I curse the ocean.

So, to see some fishermen returning, it is a small sign of normal life -- Aaron.

BROWN: It is recovery, in lots of different ways. Each day, there are little signs of recovery. It's two fishermen today. It's a market yesterday. Tomorrow, it will be something else.

Not all of it happens spontaneously. And we'll continue to look after the break at the efforts being made to coordinate recovery, to get supplies to people who need it, to get information about who is lost and what can be done.

We'll take a break first. Our coverage continues in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: The world's responded to this catastrophe in an overwhelming way, a way worthy, I suppose, of the catastrophe itself.

Nigel Pont is with Mercy Corps.

We've been sort of oddly focused on these soldiers recovering bodies. And I said a minute ago there's no doubt hundreds of bodies here. And you talked about an area you were working in.

NIGEL PONT, MERCY CORPS: A Mercy Corps team is working on the other side of town, the west side from here. We're in the process of working with communities to help them reach areas which the military has not yet been able to reach.

And in that area -- I was there yesterday -- there are bodies on the surface, and the smell is overpowering, and there must be hundreds of bodies underneath these big piles of debris.

BROWN: What do you need?

PONT: Mercy Corps needs to focus on our logistics into the west coast. We're having a lot of challenges, but we're slowly starting to get our operation going there.

BROWN: This is that area. You've got a major provincial capital, and then there are these communities that go up the west coast that were, people talk about, 80 percent wiped out.

PONT: We've met -- we're serving IDPs here in the city, displaced people who come from some of those villages, and they're talking about villages of 1,200 people in which maybe there are 100 survivors.

BROWN: What do you do when you get there? What will you do? What can you do when you get there?

PONT: I think it's important to help the people identify what their needs are and then get emergency supplies to them quickly and then, as soon as possible, get them involved in decisions for how they can recover their own communities.

BROWN: These were hardly rich communities to begin with.

Are you getting information from either the Indonesian government, from USAID, which has been very active up in that area, about what the situation is for people on the ground right now?

PONT: Today, an assessment mission with NGOs and the United Nations went by helicopter down the west coast, supported by USAID and the U.S. military. And we're doing an assessment in there right now.

BROWN: Are you confident that the money flow, which has been extraordinary, the generosity of people, will continue once, because this inevitably happens, the world's attention turns, it goes back to whatever it was before or whatever it's about to become?

PONT: I'm confident the resources will continue to be available for meeting the needs of these people and helping them to recover as they make their own decisions.

BROWN: Best of luck to you.

PONT: OK.

BROWN: We appreciate it.

PONT: Thank you very much.

BROWN: Nigel Pont of Mercy Corps, thank you very much.

We'll take a break. When we come back, our coverage continues. Reporters reflect on what has been an extraordinary journalistic experience.

We break first.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: You've heard it so many times in the last 10 days. The scope of destruction in South Asia is almost overwhelming, almost impossible to fathom. One measure of the magnitude comes from those whose work is to remain detached.

Mark Austin of Britain's ITV has been to many disaster zones in his career. Not one, he says, comes close to this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARK AUSTIN, ITN REPORTER (voice-over): It is one thing to hear about it. It is quite another to see it for yourself. I have witnessed the destruction wrought by nature in many countries, but nothing, nothing to compare with this.

(on camera): And what strikes you coming here is this. In Thailand, it was the tourist resorts, the fishing villages right by the sea that were destroyed. Here, we're talking about a capital city of a province. We are four kilometers inland and just look at it. As far as the eye can see, it is destroyed.

(voice-over): Television deals in the human senses of sight and sound, but it is an inadequate medium when it comes to conveying what it's really like here. This is a city pervaded by death, the sight of it, yes, but also the smell of it. Death is everywhere. Today in Banda Aceh, you cannot escape it.

(on camera): Everywhere you drive in Banda Aceh, you come across scenes like this here, teams of workers pulling out bodies from the river that flows through the center of Banda Aceh. We've been here 15 minutes or so and we've seen them pull out five bodies. And this, of course, is 10 days after the waves struck.

(voice-over): Help is here, of course, but seldom can anywhere have needed it as much as this place, this city, or, rather, what remains of it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And, once again, that was Mike Austin of Britain's ITV reporting.

Back to Aaron now, looking at some of that same devastation in Banda Aceh.

I guess, Aaron, one of the things you were talking about earlier this evening that really struck me -- and it's really hard to understand this -- that you're staying at a point that is a mile and a half inland from the ocean.

BROWN: Yes.

It's -- I mean, again, I think, I would just echo everything that Mark Austin said. The difference between what happened here and what happened in Thailand and Sri Lanka is that it isn't just the coast, that we're a mile and a half from the coast here and look what's in front of us. And believe me when I tell you that, if you were to look the other way, it doesn't look any prettier.

When Mark was reporting that, I knew exactly where in town he was talking about, four miles in, about 3 1/2 miles from the ocean . And it's just devastated. And the aftershocks continue. We were standing here, what, 2 1/2 hours ago, I guess, and another one rolled through. There was one earlier this morning. How that must traumatize the people who lived through it, the peril they must feel.

In any case, we'll take a break. When we come back, this disaster as seen through the lens, as we often do, of some of the world's great still photographers.

CNN's special coverage continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: The remote island of Car Nicobar was in the direct path of the tsunami. It's part of India, which has refused foreign assistance. India is conducting its own relief efforts and has allowed just a few reporters in.

Janaki Kremmer of "The Christian Science Monitor" is one of them. Here's what she told CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JANAKI KREMMER, "THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR": There's 30,000 people in Car Nicobar and about half of them are missing, according to unofficial figures right now.

And the island itself, there's 12 out of 15 villages that have been completely obliterated, and I mean obliterated in the sense of, it was like a bomb had hit the ground. There was nothing there.

The people that I spoke to, most of them had lost some family members, if not all of them. And you could tell that in their eyes. I mean, there's this sort of dead, dazed look, where, you know, they're sort of looking through you. And it's happened to so many of them. And they're just sitting around, and they're saying, why didn't I die?

Foreign aid workers haven't gone there to provide relief right now. They haven't been given that permission because of the many military bases and naval bases that the armed forces have there. So far, the army and the armed forces in the islands have been bringing the food stuff to the people.

What I found was that there was a sense of demoralization in the camps. I had people come to me and say, we really need to start our lives again, and that's what we want to do, and that's not happening. And the government doesn't seem to really get that. You have about 500 or 600 people making up one camp, coming from different villages, and they've just been told to sit there and wait until, you know, things are decided.

And they're not used to doing that. These are very proud people. It was just really, really incredible to see how people just managed to keep their dignity, but obviously this is something that's going to be, you know, with them for the rest of their lives.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And, Aaron, while I know you couldn't see those pictures, it's the kind of look you've seen in the eyes of so many of the victims whose eyes you've looked into, that haunting sense of loss.

That wraps it up from New York for me this evening.

And, Aaron, you'll get to close out the hour here.

BROWN: Thank you very much.

There is this kind of dead look that takes over the faces of people when they've grieved at this scale, as if there is nothing else inside.

This hour tomorrow looks at the special plight of children in this disaster. We hope you'll join us for that.

Until then, good night for all of us.


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