- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 29, 2004

NAIROBI, Kenya — From 30,000 to 50,000 people in Somalia are “in need of immediate relief assistance” after the country was slammed by a tsunami wave this weekend, a United Nations aid agency said yesterday.

The northern island of Hafun was hit particularly hard, and thousands there were left without food and water, the World Food Program said.

“Initial estimates suggest that 30,000 to 50,000 people are affected and in need of immediate relief,” said WFP spokeswoman Laura Melo.

At least 40 fishermen were confirmed dead and more than 60 still were missing in Somalia after their wooden fishing dhows capsized Sunday in the wake of killer waves off East Africa’s coast.

The WFP said it was having serious difficulties getting desperately needed food to the isolated Hafun, which was slammed by the surging waves triggered by a mammoth earthquake off Indonesia.

“Two trucks carrying 31 tons of food aid are presently stuck [37 miles] outside Hafun, unable to proceed … because the road that would be used was destroyed by the floods,” the agency said.

WFP staff described a state of total desolation on the island, saying Hafun’s 4,500 inhabitants appeared to have lost all their possessions.

“They are now without shelter, water, food and medicine. Cases of diarrhea and other diseases are already being reported,” WFP warned, calling on the international community to provide urgent help.

“Most of the houses in the town have been destroyed. Personal possessions lay scattered around the town. Boats are beached in the middle of the town. Even money is strewn on the ground,” the agency added.

The tidal waves that swamped villages from Sri Lanka to Somalia have killed about 77,000 people. Aid agencies are warning that thousands more could die from disease.

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