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PAULA ZAHN NOW

Asian Tsunami: One Year Later

Aired December 26, 2005 - 20:00   ET

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


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, everyone. I'm Paula Zahn. Thanks so much for joining us tonight.
It was exactly one year ago tonight that a wave of unbelievable proportions began its devastating sweep across much of South Asia. Tonight, a look back, not only at the destruction of the tsunami of 2005, but the spirit of renewal that has followed.

Our special hour begins right now, after a look at the latest headlines.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins.

We begin with the shocking Christmas killings just outside Washington, D.C. Police today identified 27-year-old Nathan Cheatham as man who shot and killed four people in Great Falls, Virginia, before turning the gun on himself. Police say they may never know what drove Cheatham to fire at least 50 rounds. He reportedly had a history of mental illness.

Police in New Jersey still searching for one of two police officers believed killed when their truck plunged off an open drawbridge into the Hackensack River in heavy rain and fog. The two officers had just delivered flares to the bridge operator because the safety gate wasn't working. The body of one officer has been recovered.

You may not know his name, but you will instantly recognize his face, the droopy-eyed character actor Vincent Schiavelli. He died today of lung cancer at his home in Italy. Schiavelli appeared in other -- excuse me -- over 150 movies and TV shows, including "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and "Ghost." He was 57 years old.

And, after a brief respite, the shopping frenzy is back on in malls and stores across the country. Customers are being lured with early-bird specials and post-holiday discounts.

Those are the headlines.

Stay with us, everybody, for a special edition of PAULA ZAHN NOW.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): In disaster's wake: stark reminders of an unforgiving force of nature.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A second wave came in. A third wave came in. And people injured. I saw dead bodies floating.

ZAHN: Families swept apart without warning.

Tonight, a special hour of hope, spirit and the return to life one year later, unlikely heroes, ancient villages striving for a better future.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): After overcoming that disaster, this is the chance to build something new in Banda Aceh.

ZAHN: A year of survival, a year of change, one year after the tsunami, tonight on PAULA ZAHN NOW.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: In a year filled with natural disasters, the Asian earthquake and tsunami still stand out. Every disaster this past year and in years to come will be measured against what happened on the morning of December 26, 2004.

The power of the initial earthquake revised upward by scientists is now estimated between magnitudes of 9.1 and 9.3. It is the fourth strongest quake since record-keeping began back in 1899. But the resulting tsunami, the killer waves caused by the quake, were the real disaster. The death toll still defies comprehension.

It all started deep under water off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. A 600-mile boundary between two of the Earth's continental plates slipped, shaking the land, and sending tsunamis crashing into the shores of Sri Lanka, India, and Africa to the west, as well as Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand to the east.

CNN's Aneesh Raman was one of the first reporters to reach the resort of Phuket, Thailand.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The first wave hit Phuket around 9: 00 a.m. Within minutes, tourists alerted the world. Within hours, we arrived.

(on camera): We got to Phuket on the first flight in. Most of the island was still without electricity. And here at the airport, this area was filled with hundreds of stranded people.

(voice-over): The first survivor we met was 26-year old Julia Lebeau from Belgium.

JULIA LEBEAU, TSUNAMI SURVIVOR: The building was collapsing, so I had to jump to another building. And then, a second wave came in, a third wave came in, and people injured. I saw a dead bodies floating. And so then at a moment, we decided with a couple of people just to run for it.

RAMAN: She had narrowly escaped death, but many, we soon discovered were not as lucky. Tens, then hundreds, then thousands, the number of dead kept riding.

There was the wall of the missing. Some of the faces to this day still unaccounted for. Debris was everywhere above ground and below the water.

Now it is almost all gone. A year later, there are few signs of what happened here, more of what is happening now. Wissut Kasayatanand managed the Kamala beach hotel, where some of the most dramatic video was shot. In the days after the tsunami, he sound optimistic.

WISSUT KASAYATANAND, KAMALA BEACH HOTEL: We should be able to prevail.

Getting better.

RAMAN: Good to see you.

A year later, his spirit seems vindicated as the tourists returned. A hotel once littered with endless debris is back.

What is it for you see this, to see people coming back, to see the hotel back up and running?

KASAYATANAND: I'm so happy. I'm so happy. I'm really happy for all the staff, all the people on the beach and everything that their lives can move on and get going again, you know?

RAMAN: But not everywhere. The worst hit part of Thailand was the coastal area of Pang Na. We got there by road three days after the tsunami hit to find an area just starting to dig out.

(on camera): A year area, the area where we stood in Pang Na is now being rebuilt. Most of the debris has been cleared but some of it, this ship still rests miles inland, serving as a reminder of that traumatic morning.

(voice-over): And the wounds here linger as well, especially among the children of the tsunami. At this school in Pang Na, everyone was affected. Fourteen-year-old Panupanowsung (ph) saw his whole family, parents and brother killed.

"I will never forget what I have lost," he says."I keep telling myself no one in my family should have died in the tsunami."

The pain in southern Thailand remains very real. Survivors struggling to start over, some waiting even now for permanent shelter.

But the clearest legacy of the tsunami here is not one of tragedy, but one of resilience and determination of people throughout this area, overcoming the greatest of odds and living again.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: So, Aneesh, I would like for you to reflect right now on what you remember during the first moments that you got to Phuket, right after the tsunami hit.

RAMAN: Well, Paula, when we got in on that first flight, we did so under the cloak of absolute darkness. It was nighttime. The electricity on the island was out.

And, so, as we drove to the shelter we were lucky enough to find, all you could see was what the headlights of the car showed, which was debris encroaching on the road, at times, all over it. And I knew, from earlier that day, from chilling phone calls with survivors who I spoke to as these waves were coming in, that the devastation was extensive, that there were still people out in the water waiting to be rescued.

So, that first night was incredibly eerie, because I knew what was out there. I couldn't see it yet. And, as we waited for daylight to come, we thought we would start to see the extent of the damage. We didn't know at the time that that first morning, it was just the beginning -- Paula.

ZAHN: So, as sun came up that day, you still didn't have a sense of just how catastrophic this was, did you?

RAMAN: No. I mean, every day there, it got worse. Hope was impossible to find, each day worse than the one that came before.

And just every step that you walked, you saw unbelievable tragedy. You saw death upon death, destruction upon destruction. And you talked to the survivors, and it was impossible to keep a distance, because you were living this story as much as they were.

And you really felt for them, as they tried to figure out what tomorrow was going to bring, how it could get any worse than it was. And it wasn't until a few days later that we started to see that turn around, the aid agencies coming in. The world started to give again.

But, you know, when you're on the ground in Phuket, that tragedy is so hard to see beyond. And we knew that it happened in Aceh. We knew there were similar stories in Sri Lanka. But when you talk one on one with these survivors, in those moments after, it was impossible to see beyond them.

ZAHN: Aneesh Raman, thank you very much for sharing some of those reflections with us tonight.

In the year since the disaster, Thailand has stage two evacuation drills on Phuket and is building warning towers that are about three stories tall, and, in the event of another tsunami, will actually broadcast evacuation orders in six different languages.

The confirmed death toll in Thailand alone is about 5,400. And that includes an American named Ben Abels. His family struggled to find out what happened played out right here on CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): David Abels was awakened last December 26 by an early-morning phone call.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jesus Christ. look at that.

ZAHN: The news was grim. The Asian tsunami had pummeled the Thailand beach resort where his 33-year-old brother, Ben, was vacationing.

David first spoke with CNN from his home in Illinois, days after the tsunami, desperately hoping for any word at his brother.

DAVID ABELS, BROTHER OF BEN ABELS: The last we know, he was in bungalow 155 at the Princess Resort on Phi Phi Island. He's about 6'2 and 175 pounds. We're just hoping that, if anyone is over there or anyone has friends or relatives over there, if they know anything about Ben, to please let -- you know, let us know. We are desperate. My family's just in unbearable pain, pain I just never knew I could have before.

ZAHN: David hadn't heard anything from or about his younger brother since Christmas Day. That's when Ben had e-mailed his family that he was having a wonderful trip and would be home soon.

Although hoping for good news, David had no illusions as to what had likely happened to his brother.

ABELS: We want to recover my brother Ben before the Thai authorities cremate him. We don't want a photo of my brother and an urn. We want his body.

ZAHN: As the days unfolded after the disaster, a few details emerged about what had happened in those final moments. He and his traveling companion, Libby North, had been together in a beachside bungalow on Phi Phi Island, packing for the return flight home, when the waves swept in.

Libby, who was seriously injured spoke with me during her recovery.

(on camera): What do you remember about that day when the wave came crashing in on you?

DR. LIBBY NORTH, TSUNAMI SURVIVOR: I was in a bungalow with my friend Ben. And I heard roaring sound, which I thought was very peculiar. In the next moment, I saw some water rushing by the bungalow. And, then, instantaneously, it was like a truck crashed through the wall. And I was submerged. And I was traveling under water at approximately 40 miles per hour.

ZAHN (voice-over): Libby didn't see Ben again.

A week after the disaster, with still no word on Ben's fate. David decided the only hope for finding his brother would be to go to Thailand himself and search. David visited what remained of his brother's hotel to search for clues and collect his thoughts. He scanned walls of victims' photos and visited morgues. It had now been nearly two weeks, and he was frustrated by the slow pace of the recovery mission.

ABELS: We're asking the U.S. government to offer assistance to the Thai government, so everyone can have the greatest chance of recovering their loved ones and bring their loved once home, in our case, with my family, to bring Ben home.

ZAHN: After another week of searching, David returned to the U.S. without answers and without his brother's body.

Although still not giving up hope, the Abels family nevertheless chose to memorialize Ben in a service held back home in Illinois one month after the tsunami. And then, on March 2, came the not unexpected, but still very painful resolution the family had sought. Ben's body had been identified through dental records. The body was stored at one of the very temple morgues David had searched, not knowing just how close he himself had come to finding his brother.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And David Abels joins me now.

David, as you reach this dreaded one-year marker, there's an awful lot on your mind. What would you like to share with us tonight when you think about Ben?

ABELS: My family and myself, we miss him dearly. And, you know, we think about him every day. He was a terrific person. We love him and we miss him.

ZAHN: And in honor of Ben's life, you have raised an awful lot of money in a fund in his name. What do you plan to do with that money? It's $100,000, right, David?

ABELS: We're above $100,000. And we have already given much of it out. My parents are going to Thailand in February. And they will be meeting with Rotary International and several different charities, and they will view tsunami relief projects and give away remaining funds.

ZAHN: And why is that so important to your family, to help improve the infrastructure of a place that ultimately cost your brother his life?

ABELS: My brother, he had outstanding character, and he was a very good and charitable person. And we just feel that that's what he would have wanted us to do.

And we don't plan on stopping honoring his name. When -- when tsunami relief has resolved itself more, we -- you know, we plan on transferring the funds over into just a general disaster relief fund. And, you know, I -- it's sad to say, but who knows what's around the corner. And we want to have funds available to donate in his honor.

ZAHN: Well, what a legacy your brother left. And we can clearly hear the -- the love in your voice for your brother.

David Abels, thanks for sharing your story with us tonight.

ABELS: Sure.

And if I -- yes. If I could just add, he -- we have a Web site set up in his honor, BenAbels.com that -- and they have done a terrific job setting it up. And it -- and it shows you how you can donate. And it tells his -- his story and the -- the good person he was.

ZAHN: We are happy to put that up on the screen.

David Abels, again, thanks for your time tonight.

ABELS: Thank you.

ZAHN: Our next stop, the country with the single highest death toll on the day of the tsunami.

Coming up, a teenager's search for his mother leads to a place that became a symbol of death, but, today, is green with life.

Also, one of the most memorable stories of the disaster -- we're going to meet some survivors from a deadly train ride in Sri Lanka.

Plus, the amazing outpouring of help -- how much money did the U.S. give?

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Welcome back to our special hour on the first anniversary of the Asian earthquake and tsunami.

As we said earlier tonight, the death toll, 179,000, defies comprehension. That's enough people to fill every seat in the four major sports centers in the Los Angeles area. The hardest-hit country was Indonesia. According to the Red Cross, at least 131,000 people died there. That's 73 percent of the overall death toll. And 25,000 more remain missing.

I want to warn you that the images in our next report are disturbing.

In the days after the disaster, there were so many bodies that authorities had no other choice than to dump thousands of the dead into a single mass grave.

Our Alex Quade, who was in Banda Aceh shortly after the tsunami, has recently been back. And she tells us there's little sense that the dead or the living are at peace.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALEX QUADE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This was a place of sheer horror. More than 54,000 tsunami victims were dumped here without identification, without dignity, without ceremony.

At the time, there was nothing else to do. Bodies were rotting in the streets. We followed the body baggers then. It was a nightmare. Death everywhere we looked, everywhere we stepped.

It was like that for the survivors, too. Searching among the corpses for their families.

One year later, those survivors come to the mass grave searching for solace. A nightmare about his mother, brought 18-year-old Wallace (ph) here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Last night, I dream, Wallace (ph), why you didn't come to my house, she said.

Sorry, I say.

QUADE: The college student lost more than 200 members of his family and is now responsible for his brother and little sister. But it is his mother's death that haunts him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): My mother was at home.

Sorry.

QUADE: Wallace (ph), who wants to be a computer programmer, blames himself for his mother's death.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): My father asked me to go swim out in the black water and try to find my mother. I thought it was impossible to find her in the dark water since everyone was running away to save their lives. How could I swim towards the tsunami to find my mother? It was impossible.

QUADE: Then, he confesses his secret to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I couldn't swim. I couldn't swim. So I ran away to the mountains.

QUADE: Hours later, Wallace (ph) tried swimming for the first time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I finally arrived at my house but there was no house anymore just foundation. But I recognized that it was my house. I sat there and cried. Where are you, mother? How can I find you?

QUADE: His search brought him to the mass grave.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I spent hours walking around looking at the dead bodies, looking at their faces trying to find my mother. I was afraid. Because there were too many dead bodies.

QUADE: In Wallace's (ph) recurring nightmare, his mother asks why he didn't come home to save her. So he comes to the mass grave to ask her forgiveness. Though he will never know if she is really buried here.

Those who are, he says, do not rest in peace, because this is disputed land. The caretaker who grows fruit and vegetables on the grave says the 54,000 bodies were buried here without the landowner's permission. The sign says the landowner is angry, wants to be paid. A situation which brings no peace to the living.

When you look out here...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

QUADE: What -- what do you see?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I see the dead body.

(through translator): I saw the process with the tractor. Like animals. They just threw them away. The process was horrible. In Islam, in bury people with white clothing, but there were no burial clothes. I know that my mother was thrown from a tractor like that here.

QUADE: The disputed mass grave is now green with life. Cows roam. Papaya trees grow. Little comfort for survivors like Wallace (ph). There is nowhere else for them to mourn.

Alex Quade, CNN, Banda Aceh, Indonesia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Banda Aceh is the subject of some of the most searing images in the aftermath of the tsunami.

This is a satellite picture of what it looked like before the killer waves struck. You can see lots of houses, lots of greenery, and bright blue water. And this is the exact area after the tsunami struck, the water, a dirty brown, much of the land still flooded, and virtually no manmade structures are left standing.

Coming up next, Americans come to the rescue. From former presidents on down, there was an incredible outpouring of help from the United States. Did it affect world opinions?

And then, later, passengers from a train called the Queen of the Sea, their journey ended in tragedy.

Also, a unique view of the past year -- how the disaster forced a boy to become a man.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: In the weeks after the tsunami, there was an outpouring of aid the world has rarely seen. Former Presidents and one-time political rivals Bill Clinton and George Bush came together to raise about $20 million for recovery projects. They toured the ravaged area, putting instantly recognizable faces, U.S. faces, front and center in the international effort to help. Another U.S. face is one you probably won't recognize, but many grateful people in South Asia will.

Atika Shubert has his story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A sight that changed minds in the world's largest Muslim country, American military helicopters delivering food and water to stranded Muslims in Aceh, Indonesia, the area hardest hit in last year's tsunami.

One year later, according to the Pew Research Center, 79 percent of Indonesians say they have a more favorable view of the U.S. because of relief efforts.

(on camera): Most here still disagree with American foreign policy, particularly in Iraq, but many are also grateful for American aid. This road, for example, is Aceh's largest reconstruction project, costing $245 million, paid for by the United States.

(voice-over): It is a massive undertaking by the U.S. Agency for International Development, 155 miles of road to build, more than 100 bridges.

USAID says there is no political motivation tied to the help they give, but they are pleased by the results.

ANDREW NATSIOS, USAID: We certainly are not unhappy with the fact that the poll ratings of the U.S. have changed and that people, I think, in Indonesia feel a greater warmth toward the United States and toward Americans as a result of the work we've done here.

SHUBERT: Seeing American money may be one thing, but seeing American faces delivering aid may have the most personal impact.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it was just -- nothing was there.

SHUBERT: Meet Brook Weisman Ross (ph), yesterday he was a banker in Rhode Island. Today he is an aide worker in Aceh.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything's good?

SHUBERT: Brook was the first to bring outside help to this particular isolated village, providing generators, clothes and clean water supplies. Months later he is warmly greeted on his return.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think as an American I've probably helped strengthen perceptions of our country, but more so we did the right thing as a country.

SHUBERT: Whatever reservations villagers may have had has been replaced with friendship.

"I could tell straightaway Mr. Brook was different. He put others before himself," this man says. "As long as they help people, I salute them. If we didn't have outside help, Aceh would have been finished."

It has changed Brook's life as well. He now works full time with aid group Plan International.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The truth is, even though it was the hardest, emotionally and physically thing I've ever done in my life, it was the best thing.

SHUBERT: Winning hearts and minds on both sides of the political divide. Atika Shubert, CNN, Lambadanajid (ph), Aceh, Indonesia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: So, Atika, here we are a year after the tsunami struck. What do most of the victims tell you about the pace of the recovery today?

SHUBERT: Well, we had a chance to go down that west coast road that USAID is rebuilding and talk to communities there along the road. And what we've found is that some people are using into permanent houses. And for them reconstruction is moving along. They're able to now be in a permanent home and start rebuilding their lives, look for a job.

But on the other end of the spectrum we talked to one man living in a tent for a year now and he's not the only one. About 60,000 people are still living in tents. And clearly for them, reconstruction is not moving fast enough. And officials here say that even though progress is being made until people move out of those tents, the situation remains unacceptable. Paula?

ZAHN: So what is the solution to the housing crisis? How do they get those folks out of those tents?

SHUBERT: Well, what the government is doing now is it's setting up the temporary homes with aid agencies. These are very simple, steel structures that can be put up in a couple days and should last up to four years or more. And that will be able to get some solid walls and a roof over people's heads while their permanent homes are being built. They're just temporary. But it's just something that allows them to start rebuilding their lives as soon as possible.

ZAHN: That was Atika Shubert reporting. Thank you so much.

"Time" magazine reports that Americans gave $1.6 billion to the tsunami relief effort. That's more money than people in this country have ever donated to any overseas mission.

After the tsunami, one of the most incredible pictures and most incredible stories came from a Sri Lankan city named Galle. The day the killer wave hit a passenger train was about to pull out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SATIDNER BINDRA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: "It was like a big monster," he says. "It had a black mouth and white head and was trying to eat us. It was so big. It was coming right at the train."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Coming up next, one of the few survivors from what they call the train of death.

And a little bit later on, we're going to meet a boy who is taking on a grown man's burden. Stay with us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: When the tsunami hit last year it was a catastrophe of unthinkable scale. Two hundred thousand people died. But many times that number responded. To the millions who have given so generously, your kindness has saved lives. To the survivors, I know many of you still suffer and I won't be satisfied until you have the tools to thrive.

This year we witnessed Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake in Pakistan. These disasters touched the entire human family and we must face them together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: After the earthquake it took the tsunami two hours to reach Sri Lanka, an island nation off the southern coast of India. The death toll on Sri Lanka is second only to Indonesia. At least 31,000 people killed there. The government says the death toll is actually closer to 40,000. At least 4,000 people are still missing.

When planes first starting surveying the damage we spotted a passenger train, tons and tons of steel tossed around like a child's toy. The train was called the Queen of the Sea. There perhaps were 1,000 people aboard that day.

When high water forced it to stop, villagers climbed on to the cars to stay dry. That's when the full force of the tsunami hit, killing nearly everyone, but not the man in this report from Satinder Bindra.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BINDRA (voice-over): All aboard and time to roll. Wanigarathne Karunathilaka has been a guard on trains that run along Sri Lanka's south coast for 22 years. On December 26, 2004, Wanigarathne was onboard a train like this, when the sea roared on to land, slammed into the train, and killed more than a thousand people.

"It was like a big monster," he says. "It had a black mouth, and white head, and trying to eat us. It was so big, it was coming right at the train."

The tsunami smacked into train with the intensity of a thunder slap. But rather than panic, Wanigarathne opens several emergency passageways, leading people on to the roof of the train. Later, as the waters subsided, he lead them to higher ground. "I don't think I am a hero," he says. "I failed to save hundreds of people. I think I am the world's most unfortunate and unlucky man."

These rail cars have still not been removed from the scene of the tragedy. Passengers traveling by train in southern Sri Lanka can see them as they whiz by. And every day, tourists arrive to remember.

(on camera): For many visitors, these mangle rail cars serve as an eternal reminder of nature's fury. Others say, as long as the memorial remains, it will continue to remind them of their loved ones who perished here, and make it difficult to rebuild their lives.

(voice-over): Guard Wanigarathne crosses this spot every day on his train, says it is more appropriate to construct a museum away from the tragedy.

But Mangila Janika (ph) says the rail cars should stay. His air conditioner repair shop was destroyed during the tsunami and he now sells handmade artifacts and boats to visiting tourists. Without the rail cars, Mangila said his business would suffer, and he would never save enough to reopen his shop. As the debate over these rail cars continues, Wanigarathne returns to the scene of the tragedy. Moments later we witness an emotional reunion. Seventeen-year-old Jayanti Nilmini said 12 months ago, the train guard saved her life.

"I was hanging on a coconut tree," she says, "because the water had pushed me up there. And that is when he put out a stick and helped me to come on to the train."

Many others here also recall Wanigarathne's composure and professionalism. But for all of that others think of him, and after year after the disaster, Wanigarathne said he is still consumed by loss, and even if he lives for a thousand years, he says, he can never forget all those who didn't make it home on December 26th last year.

Satinder Bindra, CNN, Perilya (ph), southern Sri Lanka.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And we all just saw the new passenger train in Satinder's report. It took 57 days after the tsunami for workers to lay new tracks and for passenger service to resume into Galle.

Coming up next, a boy who is doing a man's job because of the tsunami.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I chased the fish by bashing the water. I beat the water so the fish will come out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: His parents might have survived, his home, his relatives, and his schoolmates did not. Please stay with us for a look at life in the disaster zone now. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening again. I'm Heidi Collins. Here's what's making news right now.

It has been a brutal day in Iraq. The relative quiet following the parliamentary elections is over. Gunmen and bombers killed at least two dozen people today, including one U.S. soldier.

Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon will head back to the hospital in the next few weeks. Doctors want to fix a tiny hole in Sharon's heart. It turned up after he suffered a minor stroke last week.

Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies need to do more homework fighting potential terrorist threats. That's the gist of a report analyzing antiterrorism drill at Boston's Logan International Airport this summer. The report mentioned confusion over who was in charge and said tight security slowed down ambulances.

A surfer's instinct may have saved his life this weekend in Oregon. When a great white shark nibbled on Brian Anderson's (ph) leg, he just punched the shark right in the nose. Luckily the shark pulled away and Anderson managed to swim to the beach where friends helped him. Seventy stitches later, Anderson is expected to make a full recovery and he says the attack will not stop him from surfing again. That's what they always say.

That's a quick look at the headlines. Now back to Paula Zahn.

ZAHN: We are up to the first anniversary of the earthquake and killer tsunami that ravaged the countries of South Asia. And tonight we're looking back at what happened and what's changed since then. Alex Quade takes us back to Indonesia where she met a boy with a smile that hides an awful lot of secrets.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALEX QUADE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is Hasmullah's (ph) secret way to catch fish.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I chase the fish by bashing the water. I beat the water so the fish will come out.

QUADE: And this is Hasmullah's secret fishing hole.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): At this location there are houses. After the tsunami, there's water here and no more houses. They were taken by the tsunami.

QUADE: The 13-year-old's relatives lived right here. They and their homes are gone.

What do you remember about the tsunami?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I heard people screaming, water, the water is rising. I wondered why. I ran. I saw my friends also running. Five of my close friends died.

QUADE: More than 169,000 people lost their lives in Aceh. More than anywhere else the wave hit. Hasmullah and his parents survived. His home, relatives and schoolmates did not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): There are many dead bodies everywhere after the tsunami. There are damaged houses and schools. It makes me feel unhappy and sad to think about it.

QUADE: Though he smiles, he says he hates this water. But he must fish to help support what's left of his family. Today is a good day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): These two cost 5,000 rupiah.

QUADE: About 50 cents in U.S. dollars. Fishing for a living in after tsunami is hard, muck and debris choke the ecosystem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Now there's no place to fish. The water has gone deeper. It's not good.

QUADE: All around Hasmullah, workers are rebuilding.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): There are no houses anymore. Many poor people. I feel sad. I still feel sad.

QUADE: The tsunami made 500,000 Achinese homeless. Today nearly 68,000 in this provincial capital alone still live in tents. Humanitarian shantytowns are going up, but rebuilding lives is harder.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It's not the same now. I don't enjoy school anymore. I lost so many friends.

QUADE: As he fishes, Hasmullah dreams of becoming a Muslim cleric, but worries he will be stuck the rest of the life beating the water that took his relatives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I don't know why the tsunami happened.

QUADE: A year later he's still afraid it will happen again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It was scary. I'm still scared.

QUADE: Alex Quade, CNN, Banda Aceh, Indonesia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: After the earthquake and tsunami, Save the Children helped more than a quarter million children and their families with food, shelter, health and protective services in Indonesia. Save the Children's president and CEO Charlie MacCormack joins me now with an update. Good to have you with us tonight.

CHARLIE MACCORMACK, CEO, SAVE THE CHILDREN: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: So what is the status of kids there? What did you find?

MACCORMACK: Well, I think there's been tremendous progress made. When I visited in January they were stunned. They had lost relatives and friends. They couldn't understand what's happened. Now they're back in school. Their homes are being rebuilt. Their parents are working again. They've been reunited. So there's been enormous progress. And you can see the light in their eyes which was extinct in January. So that's very heartwarming for all of us who care about kids.

ZAHN: There was tremendous concern there was going to be a huge orphan problem. Did that end up materializing?

MACCORMACK: No, there are virtually no orphans. Sadly it's because many -- many children disproportionately died because they were unable to swim and look after themselves. And there are horrible stories of mothers with three children in their arms and not being able to hold on to all of them and ...

ZAHN: Having to make choices.

MACCORMACK: ... on to a tree and so on and so forth. So that is really terrifying. But if a child survived they have a surviving parent. They have relatives. They're back in a community. So that's the positive side of the story.

ZAHN: And there has been a specific program to reunite children that at first were thought to be orphans because their parents were scattered.

MACCORMACK: Absolutely. There were early on tens of thousands of children who had lost their parents. And when I went to Banda Aceh in January just two weeks after the tsunami and came into the airport, every square inch of the terminal was covered with pictures of kids saying have you seen Ronnie (ph), have you seen this person and that person. I mean, it was just heart wrenching to see these photos and people who had lost their children didn't know where they were. But our reunification program brought thousands and thousands of children back together with their parents.

ZAHN: Another thing you're involved with is this program where children who were victims of the tsunami are communicating with children here in the United States.

MACCORMACK: Yes.

ZAHN: Who are victims of Rita and Katrina. What's going on?

MACCORMACK: It, first of all, it happened naturally. We were working with thousands of children in Aceh and Sri Lanka and they heard on the radio about Katrina. And they said we would like to write to these children and tell them we understand what they're going through, we have been through it. You can pull through. So spontaneously they wrote hundreds of letters, gave them to us because they knew we were working with children in Louisiana, Mississippi. We translated them and did give them to children in New Orleans and Pass Christian and other parts of the Gulf.

ZAHN: Why we don't tap into the wisdom of children more often escapes me. Good to see you. And congratulations on all the great work you're doing.

MACCORMACK: And thanks to you.

ZAHN: We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: One of the most controversial mysteries in the tsunami's wake is that of an infant known only as Baby Number 81. Rescuers found him all alone. But since then the baby has been claimed by several couples. As CNN senior international correspondent Satinder Bindra shows us, one year later, the little boy has a name and he's doing just fine.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BINDRA (voice-over): On December 26th last year, a raging sea tore a four-month-old boy from his mother's arms. Hours later he was found floating on this by a schoolteacher who took him to a hospital in eastern Sri Lanka. The staff there called him Baby 81. The 81st patient seen in the wake of the tsunami.

Word spread of the infant's survival and several couples who lost children in the tsunami began claiming the baby boy was theirs.

One couple, the Jeyarajahs took a DNA test and won a lengthy court battle to get their son back. Baby 81 is now 16 months old. His name is Abhilash, it means "hope" and he's come to symbolize the aspirations of all Sri Lankans trying to forget the tsunami and build a future.

"I pray that when he grows up he does good things that make us all proud," says his father. "I trust that will happen."

Abhilash and his parents' home was destroyed by the tsunami. They now live in a rented house. Despite several pledges, the Jeyarajahs say they're disappointed they haven't received any funds to rebuild their lives.

"I'm not angry but feel sad we didn't get anything," he says. "We couldn't rebuild our home and are still not settled."

(on camera): Murugupillai Jeyarajah now runs this small hair cutting salon with his brother. He says business is good because of his family's fame, with many customers coming here just to meet Abhilash's father.

(voice-over): Murugupillai makes about eight dollars a day. A decent wage in he's parts. He and his wife dream of giving their son the best possible education.

"Our only hope is to keep him happy," she says. "And bring him up in the best possible manner."

The Jeyarajahs say they feel the pressure of raising such a famous son, a baby whose story marks the triumph of human spirit against a savage sea. Satinder Bindra, CNN, Kalmunai, eastern Sri Lanka.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: A much-needed ray of light after one of the worst natural disasters any of us will ever see.

We hope we've shown you another side of the tsunami story, one that is particularly appropriate this time of year. The story of how people overcome adversity, always hoping for a better future and the very human trait of reaching out to help each other no matter how far away.

Thanks so much for being with us tonight. LARRY KING LIVE is next. Good night and have a great night.

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

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