Saturday, January 08, 2005

Tsunami Roundup

"I must admit I have never seen such utter destruction, mile after mile. You wonder, where are the people?," said Annan on Friday on his return to the provincial capital, Banda Aceh. -- Swissinfo

Maybe the feeling is mutual.

The UN is being criticised for its failure to organise dozens of aid groups in and around Banda Aceh more than a week and a half after the tsunami hit the region, forcing some of them to bypass the international body and take action into their own hands to ensure aid reaches areas with the most urgent needs. "If we wait for the UN to tell us what to do, we wouldn't do anything," said Abdul Hadi bin e Rashid, first admiral of the Malaysian navy at the country's operations tent at Banda Aceh airport. "There are people who are hungry and angry. Why wait? So we just do it." -- Financial Times

Good slogan for sneakers.

Mr Annan's visit today has prompted fears that Banda Aceh airport may be closed - in a repeat of Wednesday's shutdown during a visit by Colin Powell, the US secretary of state, which halted all incoming flights, except for helicopters, for two hours and brought the aid effort to an effective standstill.  -- Financial Times

Mr. Trouble never hangs around, when he hears that mighty sound: "Here I come to save the day." That means that Mighty Mouse is on the way.

At the same time, US officials were briefing journalists about the lack of a UN presence at the airport in Banda Aceh, the capital of the province. "Look around and see who's present, and you will also see who's missing," said one. "I think you can read between the lines. "They [the UN] have their compound in town, their cars, but are they getting food out? Are they setting up clinics?"

The UN has been desperate to put experts on the ground all week, fearing that thousands of people have yet to receive food or medical treatment. Michael Elmquist, the UN co-ordinator, said he had approached the Americans for help. "The answer was, I should go through the Indonesians," he said. The Indonesian military agreed to lend three helicopters for the UN to use yesterday. But the mission to assess needs was cancelled due to a lack of paperwork. When UN officials arrived at the airport they were told they had failed to hand in flight permission forms by 8pm the previous night. "They were at the airport and I was expecting them to go out," said Mr Elmquist. "We were not informed in advance that it was necessary to fill in these forms." -- The Daily Telegraph

The Indonesians forgot to fill out the UN form advising them they needed to complete an Indonesian form in Indonesia.

Your "friendly" Chief Diplomad's plan to move on to another set of duties, for now, has fallen by the roadside. He must remain in the current job for now. The local Guardian correspondent has called the Embassy; he is doing a negative story on the US relief effort based on "information" provided by the UN at a press conference. The Diplomad is in a dark, dark mood. So, of course, just as anyone else would do in such circumstances, The Diplomad writes about the UN. -- The Diplomad

Let the games begin.