Ex-presidents make tsunami plea

FORMER US presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush Sr came close to tears on their tour of tsunami-wrecked Asian coasts yesterday after meeting Thai children orphaned in the disaster.

After meeting a little girl in Ban Namkhem whose mother died in the Boxing Day disaster, Bush said: "It’s very moving."

The girl handed him a picture she had drawn of that day, showing her fishing village beneath the killer wave and a woman floating, eyes closed, in the water. "I’ll never forget this," he said. "You are almost in tears when you see this little girl here. It gets way beyond politics."

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Clinton also fought back tears as he spoke to reporters after receiving a similar drawing from another child from Ban Namkhem, where an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 residents - more than a third of the village - died when the waves crashed ashore.

The tsunami may have killed up to 300,000 people around the Indian Ocean rim, prompting President George W Bush to appoint his father and Clinton to lead US fundraising for survivors across the region. The two former presidents were once arch rivals, but have put aside their political differences in recent years to become good friends.

Clinton, who is also a special UN envoy for tsunami aid, estimated that roughly another $4bn was needed to help the survivors put their lives back together and appealed for the world’s media to keep the spotlight on the disaster.

"That’s the number-one problem: that we will just forget these people. What we have to do is not to forget... see this thing through," he said.

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