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Tsunami victims cope any way they can

NBC's John Seigenthaler reports from Galle, Sri Lanka, where relief has been slow to arrive and citizens are doing the best they can with what little they have.

There are so many in need. And after a week of waiting for help, tempers started to fray Monday during water distribution at a makeshift refugee camp in Galle, where hundreds waited for anything to help rebuild their lives.

Priyan Demal and his family decided not to wait on outside aid. On their own, they collected money, bought supplies and handed out everything from cooking pots to cricket bats. It helped put some smiles back on the faces of tsunami victims still in shock.

“It's a whole truckload,” said Demal of the aid his family had collected. “We've got some more in another truck as well, so we're trying to do as much as we can.”

“In each family, somebody is lost,” said Galle resident Daniel Sandam. “The father, mother, sister, the child is lost.”

Most of the aid arriving from the outside world simply has not made it to the southern tip of Sri Lanka. The roads that are left are jammed.

“The roads are very clogged and difficult,” says Jim Stephenson of the International Red Cross. “Bridges are washed out in a number of areas. You have to take detours through the hills. It's a bit of a challenge.”

The Red Cross says getting the aid to Galle wasn’t the only problem. There was no place to store relief supplies until workers found an empty warehouse Monday.

Catheryn Courville of Long View, Texas, has worked on many disaster relief operations in the United States, but a single flip-flop on a beach Monday haunted her.

“Just the loss of life and seeing vacant looks in people's eyes — it's a lot worse than I thought it would be,” said Courville.

In the middle of all the death and destruction, there are signs that rebuilding has begun.

There are now 50,000 homeless in Galle, but on many streets people have begun digging through rubble — some with only their hands — cleaning their small plots of land or their businesses, packing up piles of debris and starting their lives again.