Ships Badly Needed in Tsunami-Hit Mentawai

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The Indonesian naval hospital ship KRI Dr Soeharso

JAKARTA, Padangekspres.net - Ships are vitally important to distribute logistics and carry out evacuation of victims in Mentawai Islands, a district in West Sumatra crippled by a powerful earthquake and tsunami which flattened at least six villages and killed more than 400 people.

"Ships are expected to move with agility to reach evacuation locations so that assistance during the emergency response could reach the victims soon," Indonesian Red Cross (PMI) Deputy Chief for organization development, Firman Hasan said on Thursday.

Therefore, PMI’s branch office in West Sumatra is hiring a ship for humanitarian operations in the tsunami-hit Mentawai Islands. "The ship will be operated for one week to visit areas and villagers who so far have not yet been evacuated and received humanitarian assistance," Firman Hasan.

He said that the ship was hired in cooperation with a non-governmental organization from Bali as part of the efforts to speed up assistance into the island. In the next step, he said, PMI office in West Sumatra will also hire a bigger ship so that the volume of humanitarian assistance could be increased.

"The sea vehicles are needed to support operations in Mentawai Islands, particularly in separate sub-districts in the surrounding isles that could only be reached through sea transportation," he said.

So far, four warships and one hospital warship have also been deployed to conduct humanitarian operations. The Teluk Bayur naval base in Padang, West Sumatra, deployed four warships providing aid to tsunami victims. The four warships are KRI Imam Bonjol, KRI Gilimanuk, KRI Cirebon and KRI Teluk Manado.

"The four warships are scheduled to arrive at their destinations on Friday," operations assistant of the Naval Base Col Indarto Budiarto said. The warships carried medical supplies from the Indonesian Red Cross in Jakarta and medical personnel from the marines.

Besides medical supplies and other logistics, KRI Imam Bonjol also brought a helicopter and a Cassa plane. All the warships will distribute all kinds of aid from Padang and transport volunteers to the Mentawai islands.

In order to help injured victims, mobile hospital is also important. Therefore, mobile hospitals will be set up in quake hit areas to serve wounded victims, Health Minister Endang Rahayu Sedyaningsih said.

"We have inspected a location in Munte Baru, Pagai Selatan, where the condition is very concerning with all house leveled to the ground," she said.

For mobile hospital at sea, the naval hospital ship KRI Dr Soeharso has canceled a journey to Wasior, Papua, and is sailing to Mentawai to help tsunami victims there. "The ship was supposed to leave today for Wasior but last night the commander of the National Defense Forces (TNI) told the navy chief of staff to cancel the plan and ordered it to go to Mentawai instead," Eastern Fleet Command spokesman Lt Col Yayan Sugiana said on Wednesday.

The hospital ship is scheduled to leave for Mentawai on Thursday morning and would be there for a month. "The ship was initially scheduled to conduct a humanitarian mission in Wasior (recently hit by flash floods) for a month. So its task in Mentawai will be the same," he said.

The ship would carry logistics such as food, beverages and medical supplies initially allocated for flood victims in Wasior. The ship will also carry navy personnel and 22 doctors and nurses experienced in various disciplines.

The Eastern Fleet Command is still waiting for further orders from the TNI commander and the navy chief of staff on assigning more ships to Mentawai. "For the time being we will send one because three naval ships from the Western Fleet command have already been sent there," he said.

Regarding logistics assistance, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has presented up to 18 tons of various kinds of basic necessaries to victims of the tsunami in Mentawai. His spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha said it had been confirmed that all of the aid had reached the victims. Four tons of the aid were sent by land and sea while the other 14 tons by air.

President Yudhoyono has asked all offices concerned to ensure that the aid reached those really in need. He also called for transparency in relief aid distribution. Aid has also come from various parties. In an early meeting in Padang, several officials reported a number of foreign countries and international organizations had also expressed their wish to help.

The head of the President’s Working Unit for Development Control and Supervision, Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, reported Japan was one of the foreign countries that had offered aid. He said New Zealand had also expressed its readiness to send various kinds of aid anytime needed.

Kuntoro said the UN had also prepared aid for immediate shipment. In the meantime, West Sumatra branch of Indonesian Red Cross will soon send 1,000 tents to earthquake-triggered tsunami disaster areas.

Local PMI spokesman Hidayatul Irwan in a press statement made available to Antara said five of its workers left to Mentawai on Tuesday evening. Hidayatul said PMI held an internal coordination meeting on Wednesday night to discuss an immediate shipment of the tents to the disaster areas in Mentawai.

"On Wednesday, PMI sent a special evacuation team of ten persons, assessment team, logistic assistance, but the tents were sent on Thursday," Hidayatul said.

PMI also mobilized tens of personnel and sent four ambulances to Mentawai for early assessment. "PMI West Sumatra office has sent four ambulances and tens of personnel. For the moment, we are still waiting for complete report from the local PMI office on the situation in Mentawai," Achmad Djaelani of the Jakarta-based PMI Headquarters, said in a statement.

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