Tuesday, January 04, 2005

A sick joke

Unlike the BBC, even China Daily the official news agency of the Peoples' Republic of China – and no lover of US power – is acknowledging the role of the US military in the current tsunami disaster, reporting freely on the activities of helicopter crews from the US aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln.

Reports China Daily, "substantial help has finally begun reaching refugees in some of the more remote parts of Aceh and the U.S. military has arrived in force, parking a flotilla of ships off the coast." It adds, "US and Indonesian military helicopters landing in remote areas were swarmed by starving villagers as flight crews threw out boxes of bottled water and food."

An equally unlikely source is the Financial Times which today reports that a "logistic logjam" is hampering relief efforts in Aceh, referring to the temporary closure of the main airport in Aceh after a Boeing 737 carrying a cargo of relief supplies collided with a herd of water buffalo. The airport was reopened today after help from US and Indonesian military technicians

Elsewhere, many of the airports in the region affected by the tsunami are not used to the high volume of flights they have seen in the last few days. Sri Lanka's main airport in Colombo temporarily ran out of fuel supplies because of unexpected demand.

Thus, writes the FT, the Banda Aceh airport accident underscored the increased dependence on the ability of foreign military forces to deliver aid directly to the worst-hit areas using helicopters and naval ships, adding the detail that on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, helicopters from the USS Abraham Lincoln were delivering aid and evacuating refugees from the devastated west coast. A Singapore fleet of helicopters and two landing ships were also involved in relief operations in the area.

US amphibious ships are loading aid via helicopters from Medan before sailing around Sumatra's northern tip and down the isolated west coast. In Sri Lanka, more than 1,200 US Marines will use helicopters, bulldozers and generators to help speed up relief efforts hindered by a lack of trucks and warehouses. Military units from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are also providing logistical support to Sri Lanka, Indonesia and the Maldives.

Once again, nothing of this from the BBC which devoted its tsunami coverage in its Radio 4 evening bulletin almost exclusively to a story on child trafficking. The BBC's myopia is almost getting to be a joke – albeit a sick one.

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