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Saturday 8 January 2005

Thugs prey on tsunami victims

Corrupt officials cashing in on the tsunami tragedy and a determination to showcase India's regional dominance are hampering aid efforts. The 9479 confirmed dead in India may seem small compared with Indonesia and Sri Lanka, but an otherwise impressive national relief effort is being overshadowed by greed and chauvinism.

While millions of Indians – from celebrities to slum dwellers – have rushed to give money, food and clothes, reports are also emerging of gangsters muscling homeless villagers to open "joint" accounts to bank government grants for orphaned children. Locals say some relief trucks are being diverted as soon as they arrive in government-run camps by thugs linked to people with political influence. Volunteers arriving in the worst-hit area of Tamil Nadu say their food aid has been snatched by villagers unaffected by the tsunami.

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