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Report Sumatra, Padang 2009

 Report deployment to Padang

It’s already a week ago that I have returned from Padang, Indonesia. Miranda has tried to keep you updated during the deployment and now it is my turn to report on the things we’ve seen, done and experienced in the earthquake stricken area around Sumatra’s capital Padang.

On Monday October 5 we left from Europe with 6 RescueNet members to Singapore. There Melissa, a RescueNet member from Canada joined us. Together we took a 50 minutes ferry ride to Batam, a small Indonesian island south of Singapore. With help from local people there we were able to get a flight to Padang that same day and we arrived safely in Padang that Tuesday night.

After registering with the United Nations in the arrival hall we were picked up by our contacts there who brought us in to town where we joined with 2 other RescueNet members who had arrived a day earlier. During the trip into the city we noticed that the expected destruction and collapse of buildings was less then we anticipated. In daylight the next morning we realised that there were actually lots of buildings damaged but only limited numbers collapsed completely. Nevertheless the damage is enormous but it is due to the time of day the disaster struck(5PM) that there are relatively few casualties. Most people found a way out of buildings in time. That morning we all went to the UN headquarters to find out what the situation was and where we as a team could go to and offer our help. We also had to find transportation, food and water amongst other things. It was a very interesting and informative day to see how the coordination is dealt with after a disaster has happened. We could make a lot of contacts, got a specific task from the UN and managed to arrange transportation for our team. Because of this we were ready to move to the north of the area hit by the earthquake the very next morning. Our UN task was to investigate the actual situation in that area in regards to casualties, roads, bridges, needs and the offer our help where ever possible. With 4 four-wheel drive Mitsubishi’s we took off that morning to accomplish our mission.

The first day we camped in a small village. From here we did some reconnaissance trips to other surrounding villages and remote places to map the area. Others of our team did trauma debriefing and again others offered medical help to local people. Next to that we entertained the children of the village with games and balloons. The actual situation in this area was less severe than what was expected though the earthquake had leveled almost all houses in some streets whereas in other streets hardly a single house was damaged! We kept seeing this phenomena all over the area we went through as if the earthquake had randomly selected to hit certain streets and villages and leaves others untouched! Later we were told that the movement of the tremors were more up and down rather than swaying from left to right which would have leveled many more buildings

After this first village we moved to another area where more damage was done. The new area was east of a lake in the crater of  a volcano. Here  a lot of landslides had taken place, killing several people travelling on the mountainous roads.

People were buried under tons of dirt and many were still unaccounted for. In the village where we stayed there was a tremendous need for trauma debriefing which we offered to teachers and school children. We also managed to get rice for them and made sure it was distributed quickly. We could also do some medical work again.

After a couple of days we had to go back to Padang again because we could only keep the vehicles for a limited number of days. However, we had accomplished the task we were asked to do and we have reported all our findings to the UN. They would implement all the new facts in their communications to other organisations. It also become apparent that the first phase of rescue after the disaster took place had been dealt with and the next phase of redevelopment had started. Since this is a more long term approach and the RescueNet mandate is specifically for the first phase we could go home a bit earlier than expected.

The last days in Padang we have travelled the city, visited hard hit families and neighbourhoods and helped with preparing food parcels for families.

On Saturday October 17 we secured air tickets back to Singapore and left from there back to Europe

All in all we had a very worth while deployment and we all learned a lot especially since it was the first one for most of the team members. We now know a lot better how things work after a disaster strikes. It was also God’s grace we felt for us first timers that the severity of the disaster wasn’t as huge as we thought it would be. However, the implications for the people in Padang and surrounding areas will continue for months and months or even years. We therefore hope and pray that other relief organisations will keep concentrating on the long term redevelopment of the area.

The last thing for me here is to thank all of you who supported us in prayer and finances or in other ways. We realise how important this all is in the work we do in RescueNet and we are truly grateful for you.

Warm greetings and blessings,