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Six Months After the Tsunami: A Progress Report

I’m Steve Ember with IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

Sunday will be six months since the earthquake and tsunami waves in the Indian Ocean. The undersea quake produced a series of ocean waves as high as ten meters. Extensive damage spread across twelve countries in Asia and Africa, from Indonesia to Somalia.

On Friday, officials from the United Nations and the European Union met to discuss progress in the aid efforts. Jan Egeland is the top U.N. official for emergency aid. It took, in his words, "five to ten seconds to wipe away two hundred twenty-five thousand people." And, Mister Egeland added, "it will take five to ten years to rebuild all that was lost."

Perhaps two million people were displaced from their homes. Many still live in emergency shelters. The World Health Organization says many survivors now suffer mental health problems.

Indonesia this week said the discovery of more bodies increased the confirmed number of dead there to one hundred thirty-one thousand.

Mister Egeland says the world has reacted as never before to the events of December twenty-sixth. He says the amount spent or promised for assistance and rebuilding is around eleven thousand million dollars.

The United Nations has created a Web site to follow where aid is going. And, it has appointed Bill Clinton to assist the tsunami recovery efforts. The former president says it is going to take time for governments to provide the money they have offered.

Government aid from the United States includes about five hundred twenty-five million dollars now being released for rebuilding. The money is for projects like roads and schools.

An expert on aid financing says governments can provide help only after they receive a country’s rebuilding plan. Sri Lanka and Indonesia provided those plans in May.

Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga and Tamil Tiger rebels signed an agreement Friday. It calls for the government to share international aid with the rebels. The deal is expected to speed up aid to heavily damaged areas controlled by the Tamil Tigers. There are hopes, too, that it will help restart peace talks in Sri Lanka.

But some groups oppose the agreement. They say it will help the Tamil Tigers gain international recognition. A Marxist group left the government last week in protest. On Friday, police fired tear gas as hundreds of protesters marched in Colombo.

Six months after the tsunami, scientists and governments are working to save lives in the future. Experts are meeting in Paris to discuss details of a tsunami early-warning system for the Indian Ocean. Some temporary measures are now in place. The goal is to have the new system in operation by July of two thousand six.

Scientists said the earthquake had a magnitude strength of nine. Now, they say it was nine-point-one-five. The quake was strong enough to shake the planet for months.

IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English was written by Jerilyn Watson. Our reports are on the Web at I’m Steve Ember.