Published January 13, 2015
A Malaysian tuna ship rescued an Indonesian woman who drifted for five days in the Indian Ocean after last week's tsunami swept her out to sea from her home on Sumatra (search) island, an official said Monday.
Melawati, 23, was spotted alive Friday while clinging to a floating sago palm tree in waters near Aceh province (search), said Goi Kim Par, manager of the Malaysian International Tuna Port. Melawati uses only one name.
She suffered leg injuries because of being bitten by fish at sea and was extremely weak, but remained conscious and arrived for medical treatment Monday afternoon at Malaysia's northwestern Penang island, Goi added.
Penang Health Director Azmi Shapie said Melawati — who survived by eating the tree's fruit and bark — suffered trauma and would be given counseling before being handed to the Indonesian consulate in Penang (search).
Ship crew members told Malaysia's national news agency, Bernama, that Melawati had waved frantically to draw the trawler's attention and was found clad in only her underpants because her clothes had been ripped to shreds. She cried throughout her three days aboard the trawler, they added.
Meanwhile, the Malaysian government said it will allow the country's airspace and at least two airports to be used for tsunami relief operations in Indonesia.
The U.N. World Food Program is expected to use the Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah Airport on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur as a staging post for supplies to be dropped off before they are sent on to Aceh province on Sumatra island, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Malaysia will also let the United States use its airspace and northern Langkawi airport to dispatch humanitarian assistance to Aceh, the statement added.
Regional officials have said airports in the Sumatran towns of Medan and Banda Aceh are overstretched because of the massive amount of aid and personnel arriving.
The island of Penang might also open up its main airport for donors to drop off supplies if the federal government approves it, said Penang Chief Minister Koh Tsu Koon.
Separately, the International Committee of the Red Cross, or ICRC, expressed hope that a one-day donors' summit in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Thursday would improve how international aid is being coordinated to help Asian countries recover from the tsunamis.
For example, some parts of Sri Lanka have a surplus of aid, while others have not enough, Azrul Mohamad Khalib, a Kuala Lumpur-based ICRC spokesman, told a news conference.
Malaysia's death toll from last week's tsunami climbed to 68 after a 2-year-old girl succumbed to injuries late Sunday following a week in an intensive care ward.
More than 200 people were injured and more than 7,000 evacuated on Malaysia's northwestern coast, which is separated from Sumatra by a narrow strait.