Hand in Hand
Banda Aceh and the Indian Ocean
On the morning of Sunday, 26 December 2004, there was a severe earthquake in the Indian Ocean off the coast of northern Sumatra, Indonesia. The earthquake measured 9.0 on the Richter Scale and was followed by aftershocks ranging from 6.3 to 7.0 in severity in a zone 1,000 kilometres north to the
Andaman Islands. The underwater earthquake also resulted in a powerful tsunami (from the Japanese words meaning 'harbour wave'). The wave travelled quickly under the ocean, building to a wall of water up to 10 metres high when it reached the shallow coastal waters and causing massive destruction when it hit land.
Without an effective warning system and disaster plan, many people did not know to move quickly to higher ground to escape the wave and its load of debris. In some places the sea receded for hundreds of metres before the wave rushed in. Curious people looking at this strange occurrence from the beaches did not recognise this as a sign of danger, and as a result were killed by the tsunami.
The tsunami caused extraordinary damage. The death toll was put at roughly 230,000 in eleven countries. In addition, there were many hundreds of thousands injured, plus countless others who suffered trauma and the grief of losing family members, their homes and their livelihoods. Indonesia, Sri
Lanka, India and Thailand were the hardest hit.
Countries lost people with the knowledge and skills that were needed for their ongoing development.
Roads, bridges, water and electricity supplies, health centres and schools were destroyed. The landscape was altered unrecognisably, with some areas lifted high out of the water while others were washed entirely away. Debris and waste were scattered widely and salt inundated farmland and underground water supplies. of coast was severely affected, often up to five kilometres inland. At least 654 villages were damaged or destroyed, more than 500,000 people lost their homes, and more than 150,000 children were left without schools.
To add to the devastation an earthquake measuring
8.7 on the Richter scale struck the west coast of
Sumatra near the island of Nias on 28 March 2005.
Australians responded generously, donating more than $345 million to aid agencies. The Australian
Government also quickly responded with food, personnel and aid. In the first days, weeks and months following the disaster Australia's efforts were focused on providing necessities such as food, clean water and shelter, and the resources needed to treat victims, stop the spread of disease, clear debris from roads and restore essential services.
Some of the emergency relief responses included:
•coordination and transportation by plane of critically important relief supplies such as food, water, water containers, medical supplies, tents, tarpaulins and fuel to affected communities;
•civilian teams of 24 doctors, specialists (in child protection, medical supplies, infectious diseases and mental trauma), a microbiologist and two laboratory technicians;
•medical supplies, including injections for vaccinations against tetanus and a 90-bed Australian
Defence Force field hospital in Banda Aceh;
•the establishment and stocking of a temporary bulk medical supply warehouse;
•a water purification plant to produce up to 480,000 litres of water a day in Banda Aceh;
•the delivery of telecommunications equipment and technicians; and
•HMAS Kanimbla, a navy transport ship, with 250 sailors, 150 engineers, two Sea King helicopters, two landing craft, bulldozers, cranes, trucks and building materials.
One of the most severely affected areas was that closest to the epicentre, the province of Aceh on
Sumatra, Indonesia, and in particular, the Provincial capital, Banda Aceh. More than 170,000 people died
The swift and well-coordinated emergency effort with thousands still missing, presumed dead. The managed to prevent a major outbreak of