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Red Cross relief response underway for the islands of Simeulue and Nias

Wednesday March 30, 2005

Responding to the massive earthquake off the coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, the Red Cross has already deployed, by Red Cross aircraft, a 12-member rapid response team to the island of Nias consisting of medical personnel, logisticians and telecommunications technicians. At the same time a ground assessment of the island of Simeulue is underway in the aftermath of the strong earthquake that struck Northern Sumatra on March 28.

According to government sources, some 1,000 people have been reported dead so far on the island of Nias, which is located near the epicentre and has suffered extensive damage. With approximately 60 percent of buildings in the town of Gunungsitoli (Nias Island) damaged or destroyed, it is feared the death toll may be higher. A Red Cross doctor is assisting those injured on the ground, assisted by Palang Merah Indonesia (PMI - Indonesian Red Cross) volunteers.

On Simeulue, the Red Cross team reported that approximately 10% of buildings and infrastructure was damaged or destroyed by the earthquake. Preliminary figures indicate some 10 people were killed and dozens injured. Damaged roads, limited transportation and widespread destruction are hampering relief efforts.

A further two teams of Red Cross aid workers are due to leave for Nias today. They will include medical teams and specialists in reporting, relief coordination, water and sanitation and healthcare.

Meanwhile a large landing craft will carry relief goods from Meulaboh to the islands today, carrying body bags, tents, 4x4 trucks, kitchen sets and four cargo trucks. An additional five boats have been hired to transfer other relief items. The Red Cross is also preparing another 1,000 sheets of tarpaulin and 500 body bags to be flown in to Nias starting later today.

Red Cross water and sanitation and basic health care Emergency Response Units (ERU), plus medical staff are on standby to be deployed. A helicopter has been sourced from Banda Aceh for further relief trips.

'The Red Cross is a disaster response organisation. Our teams are on the ground and have mobilised in numbers to assist the people affected by this terrible tragedy,' said Nathan Rabe, International Operations Manager of Australian Red Cross.

'Since the December 26 tsunami, the Red Cross has been distributing food and relief items to some 11,500 survivors on the island of Simeulue and our swift response to the latest earthquake demonstrates our ability to get aid where it is needed quickly and efficiently,' added Mr Rabe.