Visitors, locals reaching out to battered region |

Visitors, locals reaching out to battered region

Scott Roulston
(AP Photo/Richard Vogel)From left to right, Karl Martin Kollerod, 21, from Norway, Sunny Ferreira, 22, and Billy Ferreira, 26, from Brisbane, Australia help in the cleanup of Bang Tao a town on the Thai resort island of Phuket destroyed by the Dec. 26 tsunami on Tuesday. Jan. 11, 2005. They are part of a group of vactioners turned volunteers helping rebuild the village.

EAGLE COUNTY – Good intentions may be admirable but good intentions with dollar signs are what relief workers in Southeast Asia are counting on to help rebuild battered villages.In the two weeks since a tsunami ravaged countries on the Indian Ocean, many Vail residents and vacationers have donated to a range of relief agencies working on may be one of the largest recovery efforts in history. Others in the valley say they intend to contribute. The tsunami has claimed at least 145,000 casualties so far and has wiped out entire villages, countless homes, bridges, and factories. Disease among survivors has now become the top fear. “I was surprised how devastating it is, and how each day they add casualties,” said Tom Barba, a resident of Vail who is still considering making a donation. While the death toll continues to grow, over $3 billion in government, public and private aid has been pledged around the world. Australia and Germany are leading the charge with pledges of $765 million and $674 million, respectively, in long-term government aid.

“It’s the worst tragedy I’ve ever seen. The United States should do more to assist,” said Johnny Ball, from Lake Tahoe, Calif., who donated money through his employer. “If we’re willing to go to Iraq, we should be able to help out over there” The U.S. has donated the fourth largest amount of government aid – $350 million – and the U.S. military continues to distribute food, water, and other supplies. Individual Americans have donated $120 million so far to chapters of the Red Cross, Oxfam and Save the Children, and other relief agencies.Chris Covarrubias, a Wal-Mart employee who lives in Avon, put money in a relief box at work. “I think it’s a dark day for everyone over there,” Covarrubias said somberly.Others, like Nelda Reid of Glen Vista, Colo., are sending donations through religious groups. Reid, who is a member of the Assembly of God Church, hopes living conditions in Southeast Asia will improve after homes and towns have been rebuilt, she said. “I think it’s very sad,” Reid said. There also are those who are bothered by the cruel side effects now emerging in the wake of the tsunami. Andrew Roland of Sommers, Conn., who is vacationing in Beaver Creek, said he was worried about children and the stress on families.

“I think it’s a catastrophe,” he said. “I feel bad for the people over there, especially the kids.” The tsunami in Southeast Asia has caused other problems beyond the immediate destruction. According to reports, some people are taking advantage of a vulnerable situation. “What’s more is that I’ve heard recently that people have been abducting the kids – the pedophiles and what not, taking them captive,” said Roland, who gave money to the Red Cross. “It’s the problem after the problem, and a concern for the world community.” Like Roland, Kelly Balseiro, a vacationer from London, said there are more problems ahead for the devastated region. “We need to start rebuilding homes before disease really sets in,” she said. “Sometimes the wave is the least of everyone’s problems. All the un-hygienic conditions after that are really the problem. Nobody has any clean drinking water or anything like that.” Balseiro has dropped money in all of the donation boxes at the Safeway supermarkets at which she has shopped, she said.

“It’s brilliant so many people are helping, but there’s so much more we can do,” Balseiro said. Vail Daily staff writer Matt Crane contributed to this report. Vail, Colorado

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