Rivalry between many aid agencies is hampering co-ordinated relief efforts The difficulty of locating and distributing aid to Indonesian survivors of the Boxing Day tsunami disaster has been underscored by the discovery of almost 3,000 villagers close to starvation less than 100km from Banda Aceh. Competition between aid agencies unwilling to share information was also hampering the delivery of supplies to remote regions, according to volunteers transporting aid by yacht. The survivors from the village of Lho Paroe - where the remaining 3,200 or so inhabitants perished in the tsunami and its immediate aftermath - were located by a team of Sikh doctors who were combing the coast aboard a yacht on Thursday. A spokesman for the medical team said the villagers had received almost no aid in the three weeks since the massive earthquake nearby sent waves crashing down upon them. 'The majority of them were all sick and without any food or water. There was no one there to assist them and they were very disoriented without any idea of what had happened because they were so completely isolated,' Global Sikhs operations director Harvinder Singh said. Global Sikhs is operating off the coast of western Sumatra in conjunction with the Waves of Mercy, a group of sailors and professional yachtsmen based in Langkawi, Malaysia. 'We understand this is the first aid they have received since a single helicopter drop more than a week ago.' He said they had been unable to confirm that another helicopter had dropped off mail and some rice more recently. 'Until this afternoon, no other help has arrived at the villages. Our boats are the only ones going from village to village.' Mr Singh said that according to the villagers, they all became sick after eating the rice provided, leading the team to assume their water supply was contaminated. The team had also sent advance parties to two other villages nearby, where initial reports indicated that even less help had arrived and people there were in dire need of basic food, medicine and clean drinking water. 'In a village of about 2,000 people, only about 700 survived. In another smaller village of about 100, we are told only 30 survived,' said chief de mission Malkith Singh. The doctors had relayed their discoveries to other organisations operating in the region, including the UN, and United States and Singaporean armed forces, but so far no one had been able to gain access to the area. One yacht, the Silolona, is surveying the coast further south to assess the level of need in other isolated villages. A photojournalist travelling aboard Silolona, John Everingham, said that while there were plenty of supplies in Banda Aceh, a lack of infrastructure, air transport and rivalry between various agencies was hampering efforts to get to those stranded by the disaster. 'There is a sense of competition between the aid agencies in Banda Aceh, with each trying to be seen doing the most good, and they do not share information readily,' he said. There had been little or no effort put into working out how to reach damaged villages by sea, with agencies that had been forced to rely on helicopters - which while fast and versatile were very limited in their load-carrying capacity - now looking at alternatives. 'There appeared to be a new realisation, born of frustration of the agencies who could not escape Banda Aceh, that sea transport to the west coast would be the only means of accessing the remote, surviving populations. 'When we mentioned Silolona's capacity to travel the west coast and remain independent for long periods, relief agencies were very interested,' Mr Everingham said, but added that interest had yet to be transformed into any concerted effort to utilise what remains of the Acehnese fishing fleet or other vessels. As it stands, Global Sikhs and Waves of Mercy are the only non-governmental groups aside from the International Committee of the Red Cross which are operating along the west coast of Sumatra. 'Patti [Seery, owner of Silolona,] will persist with her efforts to convince them.' Meanwhile, volunteers assisting with the Global Sikh/Waves of Mercy effort were last night preparing a fourth boatload of urgently needed supplies to send to the island of Weh, where the yachts are operating out of. Waves of Mercy co-ordinator Hugo Crawford said the group was anxiously searching for financial support and more suitable vessels so it could continue or even expand its relief operations.