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Tsunami disaster – countries in crisis

UNICEF responds quickly to massive earthquake off Sumatra

© Reuters/Harva
An Indonesian woman walks past ruined houses with her children in the town of Gunungsitoli after a massive earthquake on the Indonesian island of Nias.

By Chris Niles

NEW YORK, 29 March 2005 - UNICEF has completed a flyover assessment of Nias and Similue, the islands struck by a massive earthquake off the coast of Sumatra on 28 March, and plans to airlift emergency supplies as soon as possible.

Initial reports indicate that the city of Gunungsitoli, on Nias, is heavily damaged. Fearing a repeat of the devastating tsunami of 26 December, residents have fled to higher ground.

“We’ve see homes destroyed, the airport runway has been damaged, there are questions about the port, whether we can get things in and there are certainly at least hundreds killed and many, many more who’ve been injured,” said UNICEF Director of Emergency Operations Dan Toole.

Tarpaulins, tents, water containers and emergency health kits are among the things needed by the residents of Nias and Similue. UNICEF has emergency supplies in the region but the logistical problems are formidable.

“Now we have additional roads broken. We have an airport that’s blocked, so we will be relying particularly on the Indonesian military to lift things into the location by helicopter. The World Food Programme and the UN as a whole have a number of helicopters that will be able to bring supplies in from either from Banda Aceh itself, where we have huge stocks left from the previous disaster, or from further away,” said Mr. Toole.

The earthquake, which measured at 8.7 in magnitude, has created fears that trauma support for those suffering from the tsunami disaster of 26 December will be set back.

“The return to normality that everybody was working so hard towards has, in a way, been thwarted because it reminds people of the disaster that happened on 26 December,” UNICEF Communications Officer John Budd said from Jakarta. “I think that the psychological trauma is going to hamper the ability of people to try and return to a normal life.”




29 March 2005:
Director of Emergency Operations Dan Toole discusses UNICEF's response to the disaster in the Indian Ocean.

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29 March 2005:
In the aftermath of the Sumatra earthquake, UNICEF Indonesia Communication Officer John Budd describes the fears and needs of the local people.

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