The full scale of tsunami's devastation revealed

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The Independent Online

The tsunami that raged across the Indian Ocean six months ago yesterday, levelled populated areas totalling more than 200 square miles in Indonesia, the country worst affected, according to an official report released on Saturday.

The tsunami that raged across the Indian Ocean six months ago yesterday, levelled populated areas totalling more than 200 square miles in Indonesia, the country worst affected, according to an official report released on Saturday.

The study, by agencies including the International Organisation of Migration, contains the first detailed assessment of the impact on Aceh province. It reveals the scale of devastation caused by the massive earthquake off Sumatra Island, the biggest for 40 years, and tidal waves that reached miles inland.

More than one-third of settled areas in Aceh, on the northern tip of Sumatra, were flattened. A total of 116,880 houses were damaged or destroyed, with 2,580 mosques, 1,662 schools, 1,416 markets and street kiosks, 1,412 government buildings, and 693 clinics and hospitals.

The report was released as civic leaders and international donors marked the six-month milestone with a ceremony in a mosque in Ulee Lhee, a ruined coastal suburb of the capital, Banda Aceh. They acknowledged frustrations at the slow pace of recovery, and promised it would soon speed up.

Andrew Steer, head of the World Bank in Jakarta, said the task was unimaginably complex, but "by October or November you will get a sense of 'wow', this place is humming'".

The World Bank said at the weekend that rebuilding had got off to a slow start, partly because of "bottlenecks in the machinery of government and deficiencies in local authorities".

The UN's resident co-ordinator in Banda Aceh, Bo Asplund, said he expected most of the 600,000 displaced people to be in permanent or semi-permanent housing in two years. "Many people are impatient, especially those in tents," he said. "Construction of all houses needs to be done as soon as possible."

Infrastructure was ravaged by the tsunami. The report, for the government's National Planning Agency, says more than 400 miles of arterial roads were damaged or destroyed, 850 miles of local roads and 377 miles of provincial highway. A total of 2,267 bridges and 9,122 aqueducts were smashed. In areas, 80 per cent of all houses vanished.

The government's Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Agency, which is coordinating the recovery effort, said 9 per cent of civil servants were killed, a toll that reached 20 per cent in Banda Aceh, a key factor hindering the province's capacity to get back on its feet.

Some 2,500 teaching staff and assistants were killed, leaving 150,000 children without education. Thousands of health workers also perished.

Saturday's ceremony featured prayers from the Koran and traditional Acehnese dances. One survivor, a schoolgirl called Nada Lutfiah, said she had lost her parents and her brother and sister. "I am alone," she said.

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