January 9, 2005: Headlines: COS - Fiji: COS - Indonesia: Congress: Tsunami: Stamford Advocate: Chris Shays visits area in Indonesia wiped out by tsunami

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Fiji: Special Report: Former Congressman Chris Shays: RPCV Congressman Chris Shays: Archived Stories: January 9, 2005: Headlines: COS - Fiji: COS - Indonesia: Congress: Tsunami: Stamford Advocate: Chris Shays visits area in Indonesia wiped out by tsunami

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Chris Shays visits area in Indonesia wiped out by tsunami

Chris Shays visits area in Indonesia wiped out by tsunami

Chris Shays visits area in Indonesia wiped out by tsunami

Shays visits area wiped out by tsunami

By Mark Ginocchio
Staff Writer

January 9, 2005

Touring the devastation of Banda Aceh, Indonesia, introduced U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays to the unfathomable.

"It's not something to be believed," Shays, R-Bridgeport, said during a telephone interview yesterday. "There was a whole community that was just totally wiped out. No houses, no debris, just sand."

He compared the destruction left in the wake of the Asian tsunami, which has killed more than 150,000, to another grim day in modern world history.

"In my imagination this is what Hiroshima or Nagasaki must have looked like," he said, referring to the Japanese cities destroyed by U.S. atomic bombs at the end of World War II.

Shays was part of a seven-member congressional delegation that left for Indonesia Wednesday. The group has spent the past few days traveling across the northern tip of Sumatra by helicopter, surveying the damage and aid needs for the region.

The death toll for Indonesia alone tops 104,000.

Delegates have met with Indonesian leaders and refugees, as well as volunteers from Australia, Great Britain and other parts of Asia. They plan to travel to Thailand and Sri Lanka in the next few days before returning to the United States Wednesday.

For the past decade, Shays, who is chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations, has traveled to other devastated areas , such as Iraq, Bosnia and Kosovo. But the magnitude of the tsunami is still hard for Shays to describe, even after being there for a few days.

"Colin Powell told me it was like nothing he's ever seen and he's seen a lot," Shays said, referring to the secretary of state's recent visits to the region. "I've seen a lot of devastation too . . . But this? I've just never seen anything like that."

What was most shocking to Shays was how parts of the island left untouched by the tidal wave looked compared with the tip of Aceh province.

"The other side of the island looked like a thriving metropolis," he said. "The contrast was clear."

When he returns home next week, Shays said he will discuss his experience with Save the Children, a Westport-based international development nonprofit organization. As a lead sponsor of a proposed law that would authorize funds to protect women and children in humanitarian emergencies, Shays said he was concerned for the thousands of children orphaned in the region and vulnerable to sexual exploitation and trafficking.

"He's been great on all fronts as far as Save the Children is concerned," said Carol Miller, associate vice president for public policy and advocacy for Save the Children. She added that it is great "to have someone in the U.S. government in a senior leadership position who wants to make sure that children are protected during these efforts."

The rehabilitation of Southeast Asia "is a long-term thing and could take a decade-plus," Shays said, who also noted that more than 400 schools were wiped away.

"They have to start from scratch. Nothing was salvageable," he said.

Shays also defended accusations that U.S. relief has been too stingy.

"I think that was very unfair and not true," he said. "There is no question that there has been a sense of urgency and crisis and that the U.S. is playing a major role and providing major financial assistance."

Shays also said there has been no shortage of support from his constituents in lower Fairfield County.

"One person called me and said he wanted to give $100,000," he said. "I think it's good for these people to see American faces. It's good to know that we care for so many people."

When this story was posted in January 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: Stamford Advocate

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Fiji; COS - Indonesia; Congress; Tsunami



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