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Saturday, January 01, 2005

Tsunami: Now rain and flooding slow aid arrival

AP update on relief aid getting to Sri Lanka: Floods in Sri Lanka Prompt Evacuations. Also see this:
"All this money they say on the news is being donated, it's not getting down here. They could use any trucks. Where are the trucks? Where's the food?" Ian Betts said.

U.S. Marines to arrive in Sri Lanka Monday.

Update: Maldives damage.
Update2: Video of Australian Air Force C-130 delivers supplies to Aceh, Indonesia. Meanwhile, over at the Diplomad, the UN takes a battering. (hat tip on the video to "Alan" a commentor on the Diplomad post).
The UN is taking credit for things that hard-working, street savvy USAID folks have done. It was USAID working with their amazing network of local contacts who scrounged up trucks, drivers, and fuel; organized the convoy and sent it off to deliver critical supplies. A UN “air-freight handling centre” in Aceh? Bull! It's the Aussies and the Yanks who are running the air ops into Aceh. We have people working and sleeping on the tarmac in Aceh, surrounded by bugs, mud, stench and death, who every day bring in the US and Aussie C-130s and the US choppers; unload, load, send them off. We have no fancy aid workers' retreat -- notice the priorities of the UN? People are dying and what's the first thing the UN wants to do? Set up "a camp for relief workers" one that would be "fully self-contained, with kitchen, food, lodging, everything."

Update3: I has occurred to me that some explanation is due concerning the Diplomad quote and why the UN approach bothers me. First, (from a purely logistical point of view) if there is a finite amount of cargo space and a large need for cargo that feeds and otherwise sustains the people hurt by the tsunami, then the use of any of that precious cargo space for the components of a "camp" for the UN staffers is an intolerable waste of resources. I won't bother describing the mindset that thinks that such a camp is actually benficial to the locals because it somehow lowers the UN footprint in the local economy. Secondly, while I am somewhat used to people puffing their resumes (or fitness reports) and claiming "success through affiliation" (e.g. "Contributed to coaliton victory in Desert Storm through enhancing government funding" -meaning I paid my taxes). I guess the UN can sort of claim the Aussies and the Yanks (and the Thais and the Indonesians, Indians, etc) are all UN members. I find it a stretch beyond "mere puffery" to actually claim credit for the activities of the above countries. Especially when the UN staffers have gone out of their way to bash the US/Aussie/etc coalition that is actually getting stuff done. Even without a fancy camp.
Update4: NY Times reports on aid effort
The planned aid, already the most extensive ever, continued to expand when Japan pledged $500 million on Saturday, becoming the single largest contributor, and regional leaders agreed to an emergency summit meeting in Indonesia on Thursday that will bring together 23 nations, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and major donors to discuss relief efforts and the reconstruction of devastated areas. The United Nations said it would start a public appeal for funds on Jan. 6 from New York and hold an international donors conference in Geneva on Jan. 11.

The United States aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln and three accompanying ships arrived Saturday off the western coast of Sumatra and Aceh, and nine helicopters began ferrying aid from warehouses on shore to the hard-hit areas of the coast, where towns, roads and communications were swept away.

Nine C-130 transport planes, the workhorses of the Air Force cargo fleet, were ferrying medicine, blankets and body bags to Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand from bases in Thailand, an American military spokesman said.

In Sri Lanka, American officials said the first planeload of relief supplies arrived Saturday: plastic sheeting to house 3,600 people, large bladders for fresh water and 5,400 jerrycans, to be followed by similar deliveries in the coming days. Jeffrey J. Lunstead, the American ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, said the initial package of aid was worth $2.6 million - a number he said was likely to grow substantially.

American officials also said seven other vessels, led by the amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard, were steaming west from Guam, and were expected to be off Sri Lanka in the coming week. The Bonhomme Richard carries CH-46 Sea Knight and CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters.

Six other slower-moving military cargo ships loaded with food, water, blankets and a 500-bed portable hospital were also en route from Guam, but were not expected to reach the region for about two weeks, the officials said.

The first reports of disease began to emerge from the stricken regions, but health officials said they were scattered, rather than evidence of epidemic. "There are increasing reports of diarrheal disease outbreaks coming from displaced persons' settlements in Sri Lanka, in India," Dr. David Nabarro, executive director of the World Health Organization, told reporters in Geneva.

American military officials said 1,500 military personnel, mostly marines, are expected in Sri Lanka within the next few days. On Sunday or Monday, an advance group of 200 are to arrive to establish logistics and begin some actual reconstruction, using ship-borne heavy-lifting helicopters and hovercraft to move aid and reconstruction supplies.

Clearly on the defensive over criticisms of the United States, which initially pledged $35 million and then raised it to $350 million, the American ambassador in Jakarta, B. Lynn Pascoe, called a news conference on Saturday to outline the American efforts, and after answering questions he walked out to the tarmac at the Indonesian Air Force base and loaded cartons of relief aid onto an American C-130, for the benefit of photographers.

"We worked as fast as we could" to find money for the assistance effort, Mr. Pascoe said. As soon as the first word reached the embassy, he said, he took $100,000 from his discretionary fund for the Indonesian Red Cross. As the scale of the disaster became known, the embassy gave the Red Cross $2.1 million, he said.

"We immediately started scrounging around for every fund that we had, and for rice, food, noodles," said Mr. Pascoe, a career diplomat who took up his post here in late October.

Three Navy doctors from a research program at the embassy have been sent to Meulaboh, southeast of Banda Aceh, one of the worst hit areas, Mr. Pascoe said.
Let's see, ships underway, helicopters and airplanes flying in supplies, doctors in place, and the U.S. is "Clearly on the defensive?' How about simply trying to set the record straight?

Update5: USS Bonhomme Richard (a Wasp class LHD) is one of the world's largest amphibious ships and come equipped with a 600 hundred bed hosptial as well as its helicopters and the potential for air cushion landing craft and/or landing craft operations, allowing for "logistics over the shore" operations. Precisely the right ship to be on scene.
(US Navy photo by PH3 Gregory Badger)

Update6: The "six slower moving civilian ships" are probably from MPSRON-3 (Military Prepositioning Ship Squadron-3) based in the Mariana Islands (Guam and Saipan). These ships are very capable and include causeways and other items needed to load over the beach:
These ships carry a full range of Marine Corps cargo, enough cargo to support a Marine Air Ground Task Force for 30 days. Each ship has lift-on/lift-off capabilities as well as roll-on/roll-off capabilities. Navy lighterage carried onboard consists of causeways, both powered and unpowered, and small boats to move them around. They are certified to land up to CH-53E helicopters. Four of these ships are prepositioned in Guam and Saipan...

Update7: As clarification, I believe the lower photo shows Marine amphibious vehicles launching from the stern ramp of an MPS ship.
Update8: Brief note on MPSRON capacity as opposed to airlift:
Delivering all the equipment delivered by MPS ships to the 45,000 men of the 1st Marine Division would have required 2100 lifts by C-5s, our largest military transport aircraft.

Update9: Even more info on U.S. Navy prepositioned shipping here.

Maps of Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the general area show how much water is involved. All maps from the terrific Perry-CastaƱeda Library Map Collection at the University of Texas.

Update11: Trouble dealing with the many islands of the Maldives.
Update12: BBC coverage of problems getting aid to Aceh
Update13: Powerline on the arrival of the first U.S. forces off Indonesia.

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