Guest: Malcolm Fleming, Craig Smith, Jalen Rose
ANNOUNCER: This is an MSNBC special report, “Tsunami: The World Responds.” Tonight, new, vivid images of the tsunami hitting land. And why people in this remote corner of the world are still living in terror.
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KEVIN SITES, NBC NEWS: A major earthquake.
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ANNOUNCER: And then, fixing paradise, signs of healing as this decimated society prepares to welcome back tourists. But if they rebuild it, will they come? Plus, animal intuition. Did these creatures know the tsunami was coming before humans did?
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They‘re more reactive to those signals than we tend to be.
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ANNOUNCER: And the fame factor. NBA stars who are jumping through hoops to help the victims of one of the world‘s worst disasters.
From MSNBC world headquarters, Alex Witt.
ALEX WITT, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening. As the death toll from the tsunami topped 140,000, there was mixed news today about the relief mission. The U.N. said that for the moment, the threat of the outbreak of disease is being held in check by the medical aid pouring into South Asia. But there was also a warning from the World Health Organization that the number of dead could double without a continuing supply of aid, such as clean drinking water, food and medicine. An estimated three to four million people are living in refugee camps. To try and figure out the best way to get the aid out, world leaders, including U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan and secretary of state Colin Powell held a one-day emergency conference in Indonesia.
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KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL: We are responding, and there is solidarity, and we are going to really make a difference here. Obviously, as you move down to reconstruction, you‘re going to be looking very much at each national effort and what contribution the international community can make.
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WITT: Governments from across the globe have pledged $4 billion in aid, but in past disasters, the money actually delivered lagged far behind the amount promised. So Annan urged those countries who‘ve pledged money to get it in immediately. The U.S. military, which is flying round-the-clock relief missions to remote areas, is spending $6 million a day. That‘s on top of the $350 million the Bush administration has pledged.
And new video today of the killer tsunami hitting Thailand. Watch and listen as people try to warn a man standing on the beach. That man was swept away, and everything in the tsunami‘s path was destroyed.
The focus of this crisis has been on the incredible death toll, but the number of injured is even more staggering. Eleven days after the tsunami hit Southeast Asia, the wounded are still arriving for treatment at field hospitals across the region. Here‘s NBC‘s Brian Williams.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC ANCHOR (voice-over): Day 11, and Banda Aceh remains in full crisis. This field hospital, the one visited by Colin Powell, remains this region‘s emergency room.
MICHAEL BAK, USAID: The helicopters are filled up with water, high-protein biscuits and rice to be sent—to be flown out.
WILLIAMS: Those U.S. Seahawk helicopters managed to deliver 200,000 pounds of supplies while we were there, rushing out with food and water and rushing back in with dozens of the injured in desperate need of medical care.
RODD MCGIBBON, USAID: The helicopters are on full capacity. They‘re doing 30, 40 today. These flights have been absolutely critical to get crucial supplies to those isolated communities along the west coast.
WILLIAMS: Survivors suffer from the onset of infection after days of neglect. It means tough medical interventions for the doctors here.
MCGIBBON: Amputees, severe other kinds of illnesses, dehydration, diarrhea, a range of illnesses that we‘re seeing at the moment.
WILLIAMS (on camera): This is the real thing. It can‘t be said the secretary of state didn‘t visit a working area during his brief visit to Indonesia. These are some of the lucky ones, the survivors of the tsunamis, being brought here for treatment. They‘re just in off helicopters from a hard-hit section of coastline 120 miles from here.
(voice-over): The children we saw were the hardest hit. We witnessed the rescue of this 10-month-old girl, severely dehydrated. Her mother looked on as a global mix of doctors, pilots and relief workers fought to stabilize her before being evacuated to a nearby hospital. It took just 10 minutes. Everywhere at Camp Banda Aceh, this sense of urgency is paramount.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All we want to do is make sure the kid was OK and would be all right to get her to hospital. I‘m sorry. I need to go. I‘ve got lots to do today.
WILLIAMS: There is much to do. Refugee camps continue to fill up. Shelters need building. For the stunned Acehnese people, that means using whatever supplies can be found, even body bags.
For now, relief workers face this enormous task with one goal: to stay ahead of the need.
BAK: It‘s biblical. It‘s—I can‘t even—it‘s hard to describe
unless you see it. It‘s truly a monumental task, but I think it‘s one that
· the U.S. government‘s going to be able to work with the government of Indonesia to help Aceh recover. And I think that‘s a good thing.
WITT: And that was NBC‘s Brian Williams. Now for the very latest on the situation in the hardest-hit country, Indonesia, where more than 94,000 people lost their lives, we go to NBC‘s Kevin Sites, who‘s live in Banda Aceh. Good evening, Kevin. Good morning, your time.
KEVIN SITES, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Alex. Alex, we‘re just getting word now that that—those aftershocks that we felt here yesterday registered about 6.2 on the Richter scale. So again, a very strong aftershock. In fact, we‘re in the same position that we were yesterday morning, a line of people getting relief supplies behind me. I‘m going to step aside a little bit and let Toby (ph) shoot this.
But there was a shopping plaza destroyed by the tsunami. And just about every day, these people line up to get food and water, usually from private relief organizations. Also, the gentleman that owns this building, this supermarket, has been providing food from his warehouse for the needy people of Banda Aceh.
But yesterday was quite a different scene when the aftershocks happened. Some of that debris began to fall down from that building, and those people scattered everywhere. Many of them got on their motorbikes and left the area.
But the need is so great here that the line reformed, and people went back to get their rations of food and water. Their families are so desperate here that they felt that that was important enough to do, even at risk to themselves—Alex.
WITT: In fact, Kevin, we want to have our viewers take a look at the video that you brought us to right at that moment. You were, in fact, taping a piece to send back to us here at MSNBC. Let‘s take a look at what you experienced yesterday, in terms of that earthquake aftershock you‘re talking about. Take a listen, everybody.
SITES: A major earthquake! We‘re just having another major earthquake here. People are scattering.
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WITT: So the reaction, Kevin, to that—people scattering. But clearly, they have come back. Tell me about the safety of that building behind you right now. Is there any danger that it may collapse?
SITES: It‘s not safe at all. It‘s very dangerous. I mean, I‘m just going to let Toby please pan over there again. You can just see it‘s in a state of complete disrepair and destruction. There‘s a big scaffolding on the side of it that could fall over at any minute, and it‘s right in the direct path of thousands of people. But they are so desperate for these food and supplies that, you know, they keep on lining up here. I don‘t know why they use this location, but it is—it‘s been the location they‘ve been using for the last week.
WITT: And, again, Kevin, what...
SITES: But these people need these supplies so much, and...
WITT: Kevin, what exactly...
SITES: Sorry. Go ahead, Alex.
WITT: What exactly are they lining up for? I want to tell our viewers also that there is a five-second delay. That‘s the, you know, fractured conversation. But what is it they‘re trying to get? Is it basic provisions, like just water?
SITES: Exactly. The first day, they were handing out a carton—basically, a case of water to all the families that came up here. Yesterday and today, it‘s been food supplies. I‘m not exactly sure what‘s in there. But generally, there are food supplies from the supermarket that was destroyed behind me. Apparently, the man that owns it has been clearing his warehouse and giving the food to the needy people in boxes. And it‘s certainly not enough.
You know, there are so many needy left on this island, so many people that have been really devastated by this quake, that have lost loved ones and have family members missing. But they also have survivors left to feed, lots of orphans, lots of people that have no one to take care of them. So that‘s what they‘re receiving here in this line.
WITT: And, Kevin, it has been remarkable to watch you report about the unburied victims, the mass graves and the like. Can you give us an update on that?
SITES: Alex, yesterday I went into another region of west Aceh. I had gone to a refugee camp, and from there went a little further—further west. And we happened to pass by a place that just smelled horrifically, and I could see some army trucks moving in, so we took our motorbikes and drove around there and got a better vantage point. And what we saw was a pretty disturbing sight—truckload after truckload backing into a large ditch that had been dug out with a backhoe and dumping bodies in. Some were dumped with a dump truck. They just unloaded the bodies in. Some had to be unloaded by hand. And they were tossed into this mass grave like so many sacks of flour, soldiers just picking them up and swinging them into the grave.
It seemed very undignified, but really, there‘s no other solution at this point, Alex. There‘s so many bodies out here. They have to be disposed of quickly, otherwise the decomposition could seep into the ground water. There‘s a big concern, as we‘ve mentioned many times before, about disease, cholera and dysentery. So they have to move these bodies out. But it is—it‘s a very disturbing thing. The only body that I saw placed into this—into this ditch gently was a small body—small body bag that must have held the remains of a child, and a soldier gently dropped it into the mass grave. Others were just thrown in. So a very disturbing sight, but very much the reality here in Banda Aceh—Alex.
WITT: And Kevin, a very poignant moment on which to end this conversation. Thank you very much. NBC‘s Kevin Sites there. We appreciate the live report, and continued good luck covering this phenomenal story. We appreciate it, Kevin.
This is the biggest relief mission the world has ever seen, and the fight to prevent the outbreak of disease is a massive undertaking, with tens of thousands of lives hanging in the balance. More now from NBC‘s Ned Colt in Dondra Head, Sri Lanka.
NED COLT, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Some smiles after the heartbreak and trauma of the past 11 days. A good sign, says Dr. Upali Gankande, who, like so many here, is watching survivors closely for any symptoms of illness.
DR. UPALI GANKANDE, BRITISH VOLUNTEER: Dehydration, high fevers, and basically, a child who doesn‘t look well, who doesn‘t smile, who doesn‘t talk, who is not very active.
COLT: So far, there are no reports of widespread health problems among survivors, potentially deadly water-borne illnesses like cholera and dysentery.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is...
COLT (on camera): Women‘s hygiene products...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. We have toothbrushes and toothpaste.
COLT (voice-over): Today Oxfam passed out hygiene kits to help keep illness from taking hold in camps housing hundreds of people, places where a used syringe is now a toy.
(on camera): Many along this coastline depend on well water for drinking. But when the waves came in, they washed right into the wells. Now it‘s too salty, unfit to drink.
(voice-over): Volunteers are pumping them out. For those with water pipes, teams are out capping broken water lines and repairing them so those moving home have a source of clean water. Health teams are in the field, working to ensure there are no outbreaks of malaria or dengue, spraying for mosquitoes. U.S. helicopters are flying in water purification units and medical kits to hardest-hit areas.
Today, U.S. Senators Mary Landrieu and Bill Frist brought in American aid. Frist is a doctor who‘s well aware of potential long-term health problems ahead.
SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: It is really just beginning.
COLT: To make sure one natural catastrophe...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She must have a good diet.
COLT: ... isn‘t followed by a health crisis. Ned Colt, NBC News, Dondra Head, Sri Lanka.
WITT: Coming up, the biggest relief mission in history, an inside look at what it‘s like delivering aid to millions in some of the most remote regions on the planet, with washed-out roads, no communications and a population in desperate need. We‘ll be right back.
WITT: Back now with this MSNBC special report, “Tsunami: The World Responds.” Beyond Indonesia, Sri Lanka has had the second most people killed by the tsunamis, more than 30,000. And for many years, Sri Lanka has seen another kind of tragedy, civil war between the government and Tamil separatists. Now emergency services are overwhelmed as people struggle to cope as they‘ve never done. ITV‘s Bill Neely traveled to Jaffna, to what was at the heart of the Tamil resistance.
BILL NEELY, ITV (voice-over): They are used to death and to suffering here, but not like this. The Tamils of northern Sri Lanka have endured 20 years of a civil war that‘s killed 80,000, and now this, at least 8,000 Tamils dead in a day. Yet, like everywhere in Sri Lanka, you will see no tears here, just quiet acceptance of a terrible fate.
No hospital in South Asia has dealt with more mass casualty from bombings than Jaffna‘s, but this disaster was beyond them. Thousands came, dead and alive, hundreds are still here. Some smiles are wide. Nine-year-old Sebatian (ph) survived, but her eyes have seen horrors no child should see.
Outside, there‘s a fragile cease-fire between troops and Tamil rebels, but everything here seems more fragile since the waves struck.
(on camera): These beaches were the scene of major fighting during Sri Lanka‘s civil war. Now they‘ve been devastated by a common enemy neither side could resist, the waves. And today, there is a new danger here, floating land mines.
(voice-over): All along the coast, the camps of government troops and rebels were washed away. Hundreds died. An orphanage run by rebels was flattened. One hundred and thirteen children orphaned by war were killed by the sea. Troops who‘ve waged war in Iraq are here now, hundreds more U.S. Marines arriving. America has doubled the number of helicopters it‘s sending to help the relief effort. The Marines see in Sri Lanka a noble cause.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People have been really helpful, really excited to come down here. I know a lot of people are looking forward to having the opportunity to get here.
NEELY: But there‘s no excitement here. Tamil leaders say they don‘t want America‘s help. They‘re determined to deal with their latest tragedy alone, as they so often have. Bill Neely, ITV News, Jaffna.
WITT: Relief of all forms has been pouring into South Asia since the tsunamis struck. The international community responded by sending much-needed aid, such as food, water, doctors, medical supplies, soldiers, clothing, blankets and building material. Organizations like Oxfam and the Red Cross have worked tirelessly to raise money and assist residents. And $4 billion has been contributed by governments around the world. So far, Australia has donated the most, about $816 million, Germany $690 million, the European Union $529 million, Japan $500 million and the United States $350 million.
But with aid pouring in, just how much of it is getting out to the people who need it most? joining me from Colombo, Sri Lanka, is Malcolm Fleming from the relief agency Oxfam. It has been instrumental in the relief efforts in Indonesia, India, as well as Sri Lanka.
Good morning, your time. Thank you for being with me, Malcolm.
MALCOLM FLEMING, OXFAM: Good morning.
WITT: Let‘s talk about, first of all, how long you‘ve been in Sri Lanka so far? And what has been your primary task to date?
FLEMING: Well, I personally came over just days after the tsunami struck, but Oxfam has actually been working in this country since 1999. We‘ve had our network of offices here. Most of our presence here has actually been here because of the civil war. We have a humanitarian response to that war, and that has meant we had a network of offices in the worst affected areas. So by a strange twist of fate, we were on the scene immediately when the tsunami struck on the 26th of December.
WITT: Malcolm, there were some reports at the outset that some of the Tamil rebels were indeed assisting in the relief efforts. They were helping to coordinate getting things into the most remote areas. Do you find that to be true? Was that, indeed, the case?
FLEMING: Yes, that is the case, as far as I‘m aware. Indeed, we work in the area which the Tamil rebels hold in the far north of the country and have done for years. So we are aware of the local politics, if you want, and we‘ve worked with all people involved in the relief effort, not just the government of Sri Lanka, but the U.N. and other agencies, to make sure that aid gets through to the people most affected. And that‘s what‘s absolutely essential in the days and weeks ahead.
WITT: And Malcolm, tell me what the situation is like right now.
What kind of assistance do you need front and center, top priority today?
FLEMING: Well, our main priority is getting clean water to people because without clean water, there‘s a real prospect that disease can spread. So we have got a—we‘ve got big water tanks set up in a dozen communities right round the coast. These are being fed by water tankers coming from inland with clean water, and making sure that everyone gets the water they need. And of course, not just getting the clean water but making sure that water stays clean. So we‘re building latrines. We‘re making sure that everything‘s being down keep the water clean, making sure people are educated in the public health, they hygiene matters you have to do to make sure that disease doesn‘t spread.
WITT: And Malcolm, how difficult is it to reach the inland areas, those hard-to-reach areas? And what are you doing to try and combat that problem?
FLEMING: Well, you‘re right, some of the areas are very isolated and hard to reach. There‘s been problems with flooding more recently, as well, which has made things worse. And of course, many bridges have been destroyed, meaning the roads are impassable. In those situations, Oxfam‘s been using local boats to go down the coast to get aid in.
(UNINTELLIGIBLE) anything we can do to get the communities affected.
But we have—we have greatly benefited in this situation from having a lot of local staff in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) areas they‘re working in are from those communities affected. Of course, the other side to that is that the staff themselves were (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of their own homes. I spoke to one member of staff, a man called Philip Manuel (ph), who described how he‘d basically had to run with his—you know, grab his children and run with his wife to escape the flooding waters. And since then has, you know—amazingly, you know, washed out his home in the morning, in the afternoon, he was helping the aid effort and has been doing every since.
So there‘s some amazing, you know, individual stories of great courage and great, you know, drive in this time of crisis. And that‘s what really makes the difference when you‘re trying to get aid to hundreds of thousands of people.
WITT: Truly an example of the indomitable human spirit, certainly. Talk about, though, some of the emergency supplies, Malcolm. We understand there are some reportedly going to waste. Are you seeing any evidence of that?
FLEMING: Well, the evidence I‘ve seen is that every (UNINTELLIGIBLE) supplies (UNINTELLIGIBLE) none is being wasted. But it‘s not impossible. We‘re not in every single area to know what‘s happening. But the areas we‘re in, we certainly feel that the supplies are getting through now. There‘s a huge operation under way here in Sri Lanka and in other countries affected. And it‘s really all we can to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Every single day, more technical experts come in, more aid is being flown in from different countries, as well as that sourced locally. So there‘s a huge operation reaching hundreds of thousands of people.
But of course, it‘s not just the short term, it‘s the mid to long-term is important, as well, is making sure that once people have, you know, got the basics of life, they‘ve actually got a life to go back to, if you want, because people have not just lost their homes, their possessions, and in fact, in many cases, their loved ones. People have also lost their livelihoods, their way of making an income. The fishing industry here has been totally destroyed. Boats have been lost. Nets have been lost. Farming‘s been (UNINTELLIGIBLE) because the fields have been covered in salt water. So people don‘t have a source or income. It‘s very hard to rebuild your home, rebuild your life unless you have some—you know, some income to do that with.
WITT: Well, Malcolm Fleming of Oxfam, I‘m certain those people are very glad for your presence there. And we thank you for your time tonight with us here on MSNBC. Thank you, and best of luck.
For more information on just how to donate to Oxfam, you can check out our Web site. That‘s msnbc.com.
Still ahead: Some celebrities are writing some pretty big checks to help the tsunami victims. Jalen Rose of the Toronto Raptors—he‘s also helping out, but he‘s doing it a little differently. He‘s going to join me later.
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GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We‘re here to ask our fellow citizens to join a broad humanitarian relief effort.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is significant capacity in those ships to produce fresh water and significant capacity to store fresh water.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I suppose what has most gotten to me is the number of children who‘ve lost parents.
WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:
When it comes to dealing with the aftermath of natural disasters, the United States has the best record in the world, not the worst.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WITT: Phuket, Thailand, is a tropical island full of palm trees and beautiful beaches that was a popular destination for American and European tourists, that is until it took a direct hit from the tsunami. And there are fears that all the images of vast destruction will keep tourists away.
NBC‘s Charles Sabine with more on how Thai tourism officials are hoping what was once a booming economy is now not stalled in its tracks.
CHARLES SABINE, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The beaches, which should now be in peak season, are almost deserted. The sea that was so brutal now tranquil. It‘s a beautiful image, but a disastrous one for a country where tourism is the economy‘s lifeblood.
Expatriate American John Gray runs a sea kayaking business on the island of Phuket. He says, if the tourists don‘t come back, half a million livelihoods could be at stake.
JOHN GRAY, PHUKET BUSINESSMAN: Our society Would disintegrate.
Basically, Phuket would die. We‘re totally dependent upon tourism.
SABINE: Some of the locations that contributed to a $10 billion holiday industry will have to be rebuilt after the tsunami.
Ko Phi Phi, the setting of the Leonardo DiCaprio movie “The Beach,” now looks more like a war zone than a paradise island and will have to start from scratch. But the Thai government says most of the region‘s hotels will be fixed in months. The Marriott is now almost back to normal, but still cancellations are coming in at a time when there would normally be a waiting list for rooms.
CRAIG SMITH, J.W. MARRIOTT PHUKET RESORT & SPA: These are the peak weeks. In fact, the first day of the peak weeks is the day that the tsunami occurred.
SABINE (on camera): So, normally, you would be...
SMITH: I would be at 100 percent at premium rates.
SABINE (voice-over): Three hundred and sixty thousand Americans visited Phuket in 2003. The concern here is that, this year, they may be frightened away by images of the past.
GRAY: The perception is that this is a death place. And it certainly is not. And we really have to get people back here.
WITT: That report from NBC‘s Charles Sabine.
And joining me now from Phuket is a man you just saw in that report.
Craig Smith is the general manager of the J.W. Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa.
Good morning, your time. Thank you for being here, Craig.
SMITH: Good morning. How are you?
WITT: I‘m well, thank you. I hope you are, too.
But let‘s talk about this resort and how you it looks right now. Tell me about the damage your resort sustained.
SMITH: Originally, the wave came up over the crest of the embankment in front of our hotel. We had a large wave carry some of the pool chairs and equipment into the main pool. Our beachfront restaurant was damaged. And we lost a boathouse.
WITT: But, Craig, are you up and running? Are you operational nonetheless? Or are you shut down?
SMITH: No, we are 100 percent operational. We have a beachfront restaurant that just is missing some railing, but otherwise the hotel is in great condition.
WITT: What about your occupancy rate right now? Are there tourists there?
SMITH: No. Most of the hotel—the hotel is running at about 60 percent occupancy now. And next week, we‘ll probably run about 30 percent occupancy. And most of the folks that are in the hotel are probably from different embassies around the world here to help. It‘s been staggering, the cancellations. It really has been rough.
WITT: I was going to ask to you that effect, Craig. How much money do you think you‘re losing on a daily basis?
SMITH: I can tell you, on a monthly basis, we‘re losing a few million. We have had over 2,000 room nights canceled just for this month alone.
And, as we talked about earlier, this is—we have two seasons of the year. We have a high season that runs from November to April and a low season from, say, May to October. But then we have the two peak weeks, where the rates are triple and the hotel is just overflowing. And we have got calls from people all over the world for people trying to get in normally.
And now we can‘t even pick up business because of the some of the images that are on TV all around the world.
WITT: Craig, what about your employees? What percentage of your employees there in Phuket are actually local citizens, as opposed to those from J.W. Marriott Hotels from around the world that you bring in?
SMITH: Probably 95 percent are local.
WITT: And how many of them were affected by the tsunami on a personal level? Did any of them lose their homes or livelihood, outside of their work with you?
SMITH: About 20 of them had some sort of damage or their homes destroyed. We‘ve gone back now and rebuilt most of their homes. And right now, we‘re working with the local village near us that lost about 35 homes.
WITT: And are you able to keep all of your employees actually employed right now? Or do you have concerns you‘re going to have to either lay them off or perhaps put them elsewhere?
SMITH: We‘re fairly lucky. We‘re a large company. We‘ve got 3,500 hotels all over the world. And it‘s been phenomenal, the reaction from Marriott itself. We‘ve been farming folks out to other hotels around.
So, we have got folks going to the Caribbean, to China, to work in Hawaii, all over the world just to keep our people working. And we all have quite a bit of vacation time accrued up for this month. So folks are going ahead and going on vacation. Our concern really is going forward, and kind of cleaning up the image. We were a very fortunate area of the island. We‘re an hour north of Patong and an hour south of Khao Lak.
So the destruction of the area of the island that we‘re at is very minimal. But, unfortunately, what people keep seeing on TV is kind of scaring them away from Phuket.
WITT: One thing, Craig, that people did see, just a mere few days in the wake of this incredible, unfathomable disaster, were beachgoers frolicking in the advance of the New Year‘s Eve celebration. And do you think that may have been too much too soon for the world to see?
SMITH: Yes and no. There were quite a few people that wanted to kind of relax a little bit. We didn‘t have a lot of people in the water.
Most of the people kind of checked out and moved back home. There were a lot of folks that were here that actually were here during the time of the tsunami. They spent three or four nervous days. And then I think they kind of wanted to relax. And so, many of them went back to laying out at the pool or walking along the beach.
WITT: Craig, what do you think needs to be done, then, to ensure that the tourism industry returns to Phuket and to your hotel specifically?
SMITH: I think that the image needs to go out to the world that we‘re OK. A lot of the times, when devastation like this hits in certain areas of the world, the TV cameras seem to focus in on the devastated area.
We have 90 percent of our hotels in Phuket are running at full capacity. We‘re fine. The beaches are fine. What we really are concerned about is, we don‘t want a second wave, so to speak, to hit the island of unemployment and some other problems. The hotels are OK. All the hotels - - most of the hotels have insurance. They have business interruption insurance.
Our biggest concern are for the locals. We as Marriott will take care of our employees. But there‘s concern for local villagers. Take a local fisherman, for example, who goes out to fish. Now who is he going to sell his fish to if the tourists don‘t come back? So I think what you all are doing and some of the other areas of the world are starting to bring back pictures that things are OK.
We‘ve got plenty of fresh water. The infrastructure in Thailand I phenomenal. The freeways, the airport, everything looks normal. And I think these are the images that need to go back to the world to ask them to come back. And if they want to help Thailand, probably the best way to help Thailand now is to come back.
WITT: All right, Craig Smith, best of luck to you. We appreciate your time here on MSNBC.
SMITH: Thank you.
WITT: When we come back, pro basketball players scoring for the relief effort and celebrities with deep pockets.
And later, as the wave washed in, where were the animals? What did they know that millions of people did not?
We‘ll be right back.
WITT: Before the massive waves ever hit the shore, the animals were already running for higher ground. How did they know of the impending doom?
Stay with us.
WITT: We‘ve heard about the generosity of Americans in giving to relief efforts for the tsunami victims, and lots of celebrities are also helping out.
Leonardo DiCaprio reportedly pledged a large donation to UNICEF. Sandra Bullock made a generous gift of $1 million to the American Red Cross.
And this week, seven NBA stars will be donating $1,000 to UNICEF for each point they score in a single game. That list includes Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers, Tracy McGrady of the Houston rockets, Jermaine O‘Neal of the Indiana Pacers, as well as our next guest, Toronto Raptors guard and forward Jalen Rose, who will reach into his pocket and his heart for his scoring efforts against the Milwaukee Bucks tomorrow night in Toronto.
JALEN ROSE, NBA BASKETBALL PLAYER: Thank you for having me.
WITT: We‘re glad to have you here, because I understand you‘re quite a philanthropic guy. You do this kind of thing on occasion.
I‘m told in 1999, you began the Jalen Rose foundation. Tell me about the genesis of this particular thing, this NBA shoot-around, if you will.
ROSE: Well, like you said, I have a foundation.
And I‘ve been fortunate enough and blessed enough to be a part of a lot of situations where people that were in aid or in need of awareness to a cause, I tried to be there, along with my foundation. And this tragedy that happened in Southeast Asia is no different. When I heard about it, I immediately wanted to be a part of be one of the Americans that show aid and sympathy to that situation.
WITT: And, Jalen, what was it that called out to you the most? Was it the pictures? Was it the story? Was it the children? What was it?
ROSE: Just the devastation. And it happened around the holiday season.
A lot of times, those are the times of year you take things for granted, when you‘re worried about your gifts and you‘re hanging out with your family and doing all of those things. And then you turn on the TV and you that over 140,000 people were killed and they‘re still trying to find just normal drinking water and the fear of the diseases that may come. The death toll could continue to rise.
And, you know, that‘s a devastating situation.
WITT: Jalen, there are seven hot NBA players out there who are going to give a lot of money over the next couple of nights. How much do you think you‘re going to be able to raise?
ROSE: A ton.
The thing about it is, a lot of those guys average between 15 and 25 points. So that‘s money in itself. And SFX, the company that represents us, is going to match that donation. And more importantly than the money, it‘s just about the awareness, hopefully to get other athletes, to get other celebrities, anybody involved in just helping with the cause, because that‘s a devastating tragedy that happened. And we want to show support.
WITT: Jalen, are you going to be playing a little bit harder tomorrow night? Are you be going for those three pointers?
ROSE: I consider myself a guy that plays hard every night. But I‘m definitely going to be looking to a lot more aggressive with the tsunami situation in my heart.
WITT: And who is going to be guarding you?
ROSE: Hopefully, it doesn‘t matter. Hopefully, the shots start going in from the beginning of the game until the end of the end. And they‘re going to be talking about it during the game, like I said, which is the most important thing, because it brings awareness. A lot of times in situations like this, there are people that are willing to give. They just don‘t know how.
And through UNICEF, I was able to give. The other NBA players were able to give and encourage others to do the same.
WITT: So you‘re not going to have some sort of a pregame huddle, where you go against the guys on the opposing team and say now, look, guys, this is all for a good cause; come on, go easy on me?
ROSE: I would love to do that, but these guys also do this for a living. And if they allowed me to do that, I might try to do it the other 81 games of the season as well.
WITT: You average 14 points per game against the Milwaukee Bucks—
I‘m looking at your stats right here, Jalen—the team you‘re playing tomorrow night. How many points do you want to score against them? How many are you going for?
ROSE: Well, to be honest, I just want to first and foremost win the game and bring awareness to the situation that‘s going on in Southeast Asia. And I think the points are going to take care of themselves. I‘ve been in the league 11 years. And I‘ve been anything up into the 40-point range, so we‘ll see what happens.
WITT: In terms seeing what happens, do you think this might be a good example for other NBA players out there? Do you think they all might join in to projects like this, whether or not it‘s for the tsunami relief fund or other things?
ROSE: Of course.
WITT: And really upping the ante?
ROSE: I think so. I think, a lot of times, when you see the awareness that happens with a situations like this, it encourages people to get involved. It creates awareness. It creates a responsibility. It creates a humility for people to show that they care about a situation that sometimes doesn‘t affect what is going on necessarily in their own household.
WITT: What about this relief effort and these kinds of efforts like this for other celebrities, other athletes overall? Do you think this is a good message and something that everybody should get on board?
ROSE: Well, a lot of times, being an NBA player and being a celebrity, we get bad names for things that we like to do with our money or our time or our energy or our efforts.
But there are a lot of us, myself included, that really are into philanthropy, that are really into having foundations, really into children, really into charitable foundations. And we do a lot to give back, some obviously more than others. But, at the end of the day, you can‘t necessarily judge someone by what they‘re willing to do with their money. Just those that are willing to give, you hope they give and encourage others to do the same.
WITT: All right, Jalen Rose, you go for it tomorrow night. We‘ll all be watching. Best of luck to you.
ROSE: Thank you very much.
WITT: Nice going.
Coming up, millions of people couldn‘t get away from the killer waves in time. But that‘s not true of countless animals. How did they know the danger was on the way?
WITT: The human death toll from the tsunami is staggering, more than 140,000, and it is likely to rise. But very few animals appear to have died. Did they know something that humans didn‘t?
Here with more, NBC‘s Charles Sabine.
SABINE (voice-over): As a huge black curl of waves started rolling out at sea, humans stood transfixed. But in the animal world, there appears to have been a sense of danger, almost a sixth sense that something was terribly wrong.
At the Khao Lak Elephant Tracking Center, Poco (ph) and Thandun (ph) started a panic, trumpeting and breaking free from their chains, something their owner, Yonket (ph), had never seen them do before.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We cannot stop elephant.
SABINE: They ignored his commands to stop and ran for higher ground.
(on camera): Five minutes before.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, five minutes before tsunami came here.
SABINE (voice-over): Minutes later, the Merlin resort, next to which they had been standing, was destroyed. Yonket believes the elephants knew the tsunami was coming.
Many experts say animals have senses that make them highly tuned to impending natural phenomenon.
BILL KARESH, WILDLIFE CONSERVATION SOCIETY: We know they have better sense of hearing, they have better sense OF sound, they have better sense of sight, and they‘re more reactive to those signals than we tend to be.
SABINE: Although the animals aren‘t communicating directly with each other, they are taking cues from other animals‘ behavior.
KARESH: If they see birds flying away or they see other animals running, they are going to get nervous, too.
SABINE (on camera): When the tsunami struck here in Khao Lak, more than 3,000 human beings lost their lives here, yet no one we can find involved with the care of animals can report the death of a single one.
(voice-over): Guson Sipasad (ph) is the manager of Khao Lak National Park. He says all the animals went high into the hills and haven‘t returned, and not one perished in or around the park.
(on camera): So you have not found any dead animals along this part of the coast?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No animal.
SABINE (voice-over): Yonket‘s elephant‘s intuition was very lucky for four Japanese tourists who had climbed aboard them the day of the tsunami. They were taken on the elephants‘ backs to the hills and survived.
Charles Sabine, NBC News, Khao Lak, Thailand.
WITT: When we come back, a lone house left standing in the middle of a devastated town.
WITT: Each picture coming from the tsunami disaster area seems more heartbreaking than the last.
You are looking at the one and only house left standing in a community near Banda Aceh, Indonesia. The family of five who lived here perished. In a sad twist of fate, they were all in the one room in that house that collapsed when the waves came ashore.
And here‘s how you can help the victims of the tsunami that did survive. Contact the American Red Cross at 1-800-HELP-NOW or at RedCross.org. There are others, such as CARE USA, Mercy Corps, and the American Refugee Committee. And you can find all of this information on our Web Page, MSNBC.com.
Also, the networks of NBC Universal are joining together for a relief benefit. It will air next Saturday, January 15, at 8:00 p.m. on all of the networks of NBC Universal, including MSNBC. Be sure to tune in.
Thanks for watching. I‘m Alex Witt. We are going to be back tomorrow night with another MSNBC special, “Tsunami: The World Responds.”
“SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY” is coming up next.
Good night, everyone.
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