BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (AFP) - Confirmed deaths from Asia's tsunami catastrophe neared 81,000 early, with experts predicting much worse to come as the world's biggest ever relief operation stuttered into life against huge odds.
With 80,789 dead, rotting corpses, smashed sewers, contaminated water and a lack of food and shelter, along with mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue fever and malaria, could wipe out weakened survivors in their tens of thousands, UN and other experts warned.
The Red Cross warned its death toll could rise by more than 30,000 once outlying islands of India were fully checked, while a UN official said the toll in Indonesia alone could amount to 80,000.
"I would not be at all surprised if we are over 100,000 dead, particularly when we see what has happened in the Andaman and Nicobar islands," Peter Rees, head of operations support at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, told journalists.
But a UN spokesman in Indonesia, where the toll has ticked up relentlessly in the past two days as the full extent of the devastation in Aceh province has become clearer, said the toll in that country alone could top 80,000. more>>