Everybody leads with the tsunamis, which U.N. officials now estimate have killed at least 25,000, about half in Sri Lanka. But as the Los Angeles Timesemphasizes, the total could double—not accounting the epidemics that officials fear are brewing.
“This may be the worst natural disaster in recent history,” said a U.N. spokesman. Asked about the situation in the Indonesian province of Aceh, which was right next to the earthquake, he said, “We have no idea.”
Indonesia’s vice president visited the province and estimated that “between 21,000 and 25,000 people” died there. If that’s accurate, it would make for about 45,000 killed overall. The New York Times, citing the American consulate, says water in Aceh reached up to 10 miles inland. The Washington Post has more detail, noting that water is still moving through parts of the capital, where the vice president estimated 5,000 dead. Aceh has an ongoing rebellion and for roughly the past year has been closed to foreign relief workers and reporters. (Indonesian officials told the WP they’re reversing that policy.)
In just one incident in Sri Lanka, about 1,500 were killed when a train was overwhelmed by water. The NYT mentions that about a million Sri Lankans were made homeless. And the Wall Street Journal flags a particular problem. “Sri Lanka is one of the most heavily land-mined countries in the world,” said a U.N. official, who explained that the waters probably moved many mines and washed away markers. The Journal mentions that the U.N. is preparing to distribute aid to all of 2,000 Sri Lankan families.
Two Indian islands,Andaman and Nicobar, were also near the original quake and have yet to fully report in. Local officials estimate at least 5,000 dead.
Late yesterday, Somalia, which is about 3,000 miles away from the quake, announced what the WSJ calls “hundreds of deaths.”
USA Today says up high in display type that “hundreds of Americans” are unaccounted for. The paper cites Secretary of State Powell. What it doesn’t mention is that Powell followed that by saying, “It just means we haven’t been able to reach out and get contact with them. It does not imply that they are necessarily injured or in any way a casualty.” The State Dept. has set up a toll-free number for worried family members: 888-407-4747.
The Journal mentions that most “industrial infrastructure such as ports, as well as critical tourist facilities, are in better shape than many initially feared.”
The WP, alone, fronts the latest from Iraq: A suicide car bomb targeted the HQ of the country’s top Shiite party; killing 15 and wounding about 70. And as the Post emphasizes, the Sunni party with the largest number of candidates fielded said it’s withdrawing from the elections, citing security concerns. One Iraqi analyst said the party pulled out because it figured it wouldn’t win many seats since Sunni turnout is looking to be way low.
The Post says voter registration in Sunni areas has “lagged far behind” other regions. Polls have suggested that most Sunnis want to vote, but there’s the question of security and intimidation. The WP says there’s a leaflet going around headlined, “Ultimatum Warning Threat.” It said anybody who votes will be “liquidated within 48 hours.”
The Christian Science Monitor also has a detailed piece on the depressing registration numbers.
Knight Ridder says that despite insisting otherwise, some top Shiite politicians seem to support the idea of a theocracy.
With just about all votes counted, Ukraine’s opposition candidate, Viktor Yushenko, has been declared the winner in what observers said was an election clear of fraud. His opponent, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich claimed … fraud and said he’ll challenge the results in court. The NYT says it will be a “lonely fight.” Few supporters showed up in the capital for a planned rally and the parliament just ignored him, announcing plans for an inauguration.
USAT stuffs an interview with the recently retired inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security. Clark Kent Ervin (his parents dug Superman) had written report after report detailing DHS shortcomings. And he continues that tradition, telling USAT that the department wastes millions through an accounting division that is “chaotic and disorganized.” Asked what else is wrong with the agency he said, “It’s difficult to figure out where to start.” Ervin’s reports were widely praised by outsiders and he could have been reappointed. One named Republican Senate staffer called the move not to do so “purely a White House decision.”