To After Christmas Disaster
day after Christmas earthquake and tidal wave disaster with unimaginable
death and destruction has frozen the world’s attention to
the plight of people across eleven Asian countries.
Humanitarian groups and governments
worldwide are launching what could be the largest ever disaster
relief effort in a race to save thousands of tsunami survivors.
An international airlift is under
way to ferry critical aid and medicine to places like Phuket and
elsewhere, and to take home shell-shocked tourists.
Jets from France and Australia were
among the first to touch down at airports in Thailand and Sri
Lanka. Greece, Italy, Germany and Sweden planned similar flights.
One relief expert thinks that a
massive continuous airlift - similar to the one that supplied
West Berlin in the early days of the Cold War is needed.
"The magnitude of this is huge,"
James Lee Witt, a former chief of the US Federal Emergency Management
Agency who's now a disaster-response consultant said.
"It's going to take every country
with means to get this done.
"Getting resources into the
countries is difficult, but getting it out and into the affected
area is even more difficult," he added.
Hugh Parmer, president of the American
Refugee Committee, told reporters the country where disaster strikes
usually coordinates relief.
“There has hasn't been much
experience with multinational disasters,” he said.
"In some places, too many supplies
will build up. There will be bottlenecks at airports, and other
places will not get enough to cover basic needs," said Parmer,
who was associate director of the U.S. Agency for International
Development from 1998 to 2001.
"That will gradually sort itself
“But, given everybody's best
efforts, you're going to see a lot of chaos in the next few days."
A major concern of officials in
the countries is getting goods quickly to aid in saving the population
devastated by the disaster.
But relief agencies have learned
from experience that cash rather than goods can often spread help
Money in hand is proving to be a
vital tool in the battle for survival, as air cargo transportation
costs can often exceed purchases made in or near the affected
The International Federation of
Red Cross Charities (IFRC) that is spearheading relief efforts,
gets a major test of its multi-year program to develop better
logistics solutions aimed at getting aid where it is needed fast.
IFRC has been working on logistics
solutions with The Fritz Institute - a private foundation financed
by former air cargo industry leader and logistics executive Lynn
Mr. Fritz sold his company to UPS
a couple of years ago and then turned his attention to taking
what he learned and earned to help others, spending over a million
dollars to meld modern logistics solutions to IFRC's need to speed
up emergency operations.
While relief agencies like IFRC,
drawing upon private sector expertise for lessons on how to manage
supplies is nothing new, use of sophisticated "just-in-time”
solutions and the role of logisticians to master those systems
are thought to be still years behind the private sector,
George Fenton, logistics manager
for WorldVision's Global Rapid Response Team, believes "many
relief agencies appear to be at a similar stage in their approach
to supply chain management as the commercial sector was in the
1970’s and 1980’s, when personnel engaged in logistics
were underpaid and poorly trained. "
No doubt this most horrid world
disaster will result in closer scrutiny of just how well these
organizations handle logistics.
Many big air cargo resources having
just weathered some of the worst economic conditions in the history
of the airline business are busy once again and in some cases
World Airways Cargo has been closely
associated with humanitarian and troop flights since the airline’s
chairman the late Ed Daly personally flew the legendary last flight
out of Danang, Vietnam almost thirty years ago.
World said its current fleet of
16 aircraft is fully deployed elsewhere.
“We have been inundated with
calls from around the world for our aircraft and are closely monitoring
any possibility to help the situation,” said spokesman Steve
Tim Clark, President Emirates Airline
"We are horrified by the scale
of the disaster that has affected so many of the communities that
we serve across South Asia.
“From Emirates staff at airport
operations across the region we are hearing that many passengers
are arriving in rags.
“Our people are assisting
them by providing clothes, beverages and comfort, and ensuring
that they fly home on the first available flight.”
Ram Menen Senior Vice President
Cargo said: “Emirates SkyCargo is working closely with SriLankan
Airlines to facilitate quick transport, provide cargo space and
coordinate relief activities. Emirates also is co-sponsoring the
Airport Emergency team based in Dubai, part of the Disaster Resource
Network, a non-profit consortium of blue-chip companies that offers
humanitarian aid during such disasters.
“Eight staff members from
the Emirates Group will travel to Colombo to coordinate and support
these relief efforts."
Lufthansa which currently operates
152 flights weekly to 18 destinations in Asia /Pacific said operations
remain normal and that the carrier would keep offices open throughout
the New Year Holiday in Phuket and Bangkok and that the airline
is cooperating with the German embassies, local authorities and
all relevant parties in the affected areas to provide support
LHC spokesman Nils Haupt said:
“We share the very deep sorrow
about the tragic seaquake and tsunami that has had such an extreme
impact on the affected countries in Asia-Pacific. We express our
sincerest concern and condolences to everyone who has suffered
losses and been affected by this natural disaster.
“Condor, Lufthansa Group's
leisure airline, has operated additional flights to and from Phuket,
and chartered a Lufthansa Boeing 747 aircraft to provide additional
capacity to assist the travel requirement of passengers to and
from the area.
“A special Lufthansa operational
team has been established in Phuket.
“In Bangkok, Lufthansa staff
members are assisting in an emergency center set up by the authorities
at the airport to help passengers who have lost their travel documents,
passports and other belongings.”
Many countries have utilized aircraft
and scheduled services to secure passage for their nationals out
of the stricken areas.
In Finland, the newspaper Helsingen
Sonomat reports ongoing evacuation has moved beleaguered tourists
into Finland, Sweden and elsewhere in Northern Europe aboard Finnair
and connecting flights via Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport
from Thailand and Sri Lanka.
Two to three flights a day are scheduled
to arrive in Helsinki from the affected region throughout this
Russia dispatched aircraft to Sri
Lanka with medical supplies, rescue teams, sniffer dogs and other
relief goods including tents and blankets, while U.S. Air Force
flew six C-130 Hercules cargo planes and five KC-135 refueling
tankers to Udapao Air Field in southern Thailand, which will be
used as a regional base for the relief effort.
Six U.S. Navy P-3 Orion aircraft
were also sent to the base for search-and-rescue operations.
The U.S. also sent a pair of military
transport aircraft based at Dubai and equipped for emergencies,
into Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo.
On Wednesday 29 a fully loaded B747-400F
of China Southern Airlines arrived from Beijing in Colombo with
100 tons of relief materials.
from India Air Force MI-17 helicopters with medical teams, medical
and general relief items, an IL-76 and other all-cargo aircraft
were sent to Colombo International Airport with relief provisions
as the first wave of help got underway.
Helicopters are urgently required
in Sri Lanka, with relief workers and supplies unable to reach
many parts of the devastated country because of the collapse of
the local transport.
While long-range aircraft carrying
relief have arrived safely in Sri Lanka, goods and much of the
aid and personnel are stranded at Colombo's Bandaranaike International
World Vision Australia chief executive
Tim Costello arrived in Colombo early yesterday, but was unable
to get to the stricken south until late in the day, with transport
routes either cut or clogged with traffic.
"It's taking eight hours to
do a three-hour road trip, and that is time we have not got,"
Mr. Costello said. "Helicopters are urgently needed."
In Sri Lanka, four planes arrived
in the capital bringing a surgical hospital from Finland, a water
purification plant from Germany, doctors and medicine from Japan
and aid workers from Britain, the Red Cross said.
Supplies that included 175 tons
of rice and 100 doctors reached Sumatra's Banda Aceh.
Wildlife enthusiasts in Sri Lanka
noted their surprise in seeing no evidence of large-scale deaths
of animals, suggesting they had safely made it to high ground.
"Maybe what we think is true,
that animals have a sixth sense," a hotel manager in the
Yala National Park said.