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Aid worth $2-billion descends on Asia
Delivering relief still nightmare

Bangkok, Jan. 1 (Reuters): A multinational force of aid workers, military aircraft and ships descended on Asia as global tsunami relief pledges topped $2 billion, but the hundreds of tonnes of aid created a logistical nightmare.

The hardest part still proved to be getting aid from clogged airports out to areas rendered barely accessible by the destruction of roads, phones, boats and harbours ' but some aid was finally getting through today, six days on.

With airports under strain, Australian military transporters had to be diverted from the worst-hit area, Indonesia's northern province of Aceh where 80,000 are dead.

Military bases in Singapore, untouched by the tsunami, opened their gates to store emergency supplies in warehouses.

Aid officials, often unaware of what aid was coming until the aircraft doors opened, urged donors to let them know in advance what they were flying in.

Across the Indian Ocean region, they battled to coordinate efforts to help millions left homeless by the massive waves, unleashed by an undersea quake, that killed over 124,000 people.

Indonesia has called an international summit for January 6 to discuss how best to cope with the tsunami relief operation, one of the biggest humanitarian aid campaigns in history. Supplies that had been stacked up at the airport in Aceh's capital, Banda Aceh, for want of onward transport, were reaching the city itself to which many survivors have fled. Ample supplies of eggs, rice, noodles and biscuits were seen at one camp.

Little, though, was making it by land to people in more remote areas.

Banda Aceh airport can handle large military aircraft due to a long-running secessionist conflict, but with only one runway it was groaning under the weight of round-the-clock operations by the giant Antonov and C-130 transporters.

'The aircraft going in and going out are just taxing the capacity to the very limit,' Michael Elmquist, head of the UN disaster relief operation in Indonesia, said.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR said it planned to begin airlifting 400 tonnes of shelter and emergency supplies into Aceh from warehouses in Copenhagen and Dubai starting tomorrow.

It said its airlift would meet the needs of some 100,000 people in the ravaged province.

In Sri Lanka, the worst-hit nation after Indonesia, the US is despatching up to 1,500 Marines and a mini aircraft carrier with some 20 helicopters to assist in relief and reconstruction of the island where more than 28,000 died.

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