Aid workers describe the chaos left by deadly waves

From Asia to Africa, British charities are engaged in a battle to alleviate the suffering of millions
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Bisharo Awil Qambil, branch secretary for Somalia

"The first thing people saw in the Bari region was the sea water receding, leaving lobsters exposed on the ocean floor.

"Excited fishermen went to the beach to collect the lobsters, but minutes later the waves returned with such force that they were all swept out to sea.

"Ninety per cent of people rely for their livelihoods on fishing and most own boats; all those boats have now been destroyed, making it much harder for people to survive in the future.

"You have to remember that these are people who have already suffered from a long drought and tropical storms in recent months that have all affected fish production.

"Right now we are trying to assess the extent of the damage and people's needs. We are helping people to collect their belongings and piece together their lives. They need food, shelter, clothing and help rebuilding their boats and nets.

"Reaching remote areas is still a problem because in many places there are no coastal roads. Getting accurate information about the scale and nature of the whole disaster remains a challenge.

"Our sub-branches have reported that around 38 people died and many others are missing in the ocean, while more than 1,500 people are homeless."

British Red Cross

A British Red Cross logistics team has flown to Sri Lanka, where it is co-ordinating the arrival of all Red Cross relief goods, ensuring they reach those who need them most. Emergency supplies include cooking utensils, blankets, tarpaulins and water purification tablets. A massive emergency appeal has been launched.


Trom Boon Panitchpakdi, director of Care Thailand

"In some places whole towns and villages have been literally swept away - there is nothing left.

"We went to one village where half the people have been killed. The local school has been destroyed, but the teacher said that there may be no point in rebuilding it because so many children are dead.

"A lot of the villages are still covered in mud, and people are too scared to return to their homes because they are worried that another wave may come.

"Right now, the most important thing is to manage the dead bodies. They are piling up in the temples and people do not want to bury the bodies until they have identified them, but by now the bodies are so decomposed that it is impossible to do that.

"What we want to start doing is get down to the villages and start trying to persuade people to return and rebuild their houses and communities.

"We need to start clearing the mud and getting the sanitation supplies rebuilt.

"Members of the Thai public have responded very well with food and clothing, but we need medicines, building materials, and to start rebuilding power and sanitation supplies."

Care International

Teams are working in Sri Lanka (250 staff in 17 offices throughout the country) and also in India, Indonesia and Thailand. Assisting with food and transport in Sri Lanka, and with water purification in India and Indonesia, while rapid assessments are being done in Thailand's coastal zones.


Sushant Agrawal Director of CASA (Churches' Auxiliary for Social Action), Christian Aid's main partner in India.

"I have come here to Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, which is the worst affected state, to oversee the relief operation in the worst hit areas further south.

"Here in Chennai there are about 20,000 people homeless and some of them have been sheltering in churches. But further south we are dealing with about 50,000 homeless families, which means about 250,000 to 300,000 people.

"We will be providing them with two kits. One is a food kit which contains dry rations - rice, lentils, oil, some spices and salt - so they can start cooking when they get home. The other is a non-food kit. It contains two pieces of clothing for a man and a woman, one piece of blanket, three pieces of sleeping mat, three pieces of bed covering, a water container so they can carry drinking water, and plastic sheets. The sheets are so they can have something over their heads if they are still sleeping under trees.

"I will tell people that we are with them. We have to ensure not only that we give those who have suffered access to food and relief materials, but that we also uphold their dignity."

Christian Aid

Working in India and Sri Lanka with partner organisations, the Churches Auxiliary for Social Action (CASA) and The National Christian Council of Sri Lanka. Christian Aid has already supplied £150,000 of emergency funding to CASA and has an assessment team working in Sri Lanka.


Phil Esmonde, programme representative for Oxfam UK in Sri Lanka

"The clean-up operation is still going on and there are still some areas that we cannot access.

"The gap between rich and poor has been wiped out in some regions because everyone has lost everything. People are very traumatised and very fatigued, and many are still too scared to go back to their villages.

"Yesterday we sent an assessment team down to a town in the south, and the government agent there is literally sitting under a tree, trying to function, because all the buildings have been destroyed.

"All records of the community have been lost and the university students are going around trying to start them all over again.

"We have already started distributing shelter and sheeting, and trying to put sanitation equipment into affected communities. Relief is starting to get through and more information is coming in about exactly what is needed.

"We are planning a two-year response. In the long term, we will help people rebuild their economies."


Main effort in Sri Lanka, where many Oxfam staff had homes destroyed. Now providing food for 8,000 families and clean water tanks. Also active in India and Indonesia.


Kevin Byrne, director of Save the Children Indonesia

"Our midwife training centre in Aceh was destroyed and two of our midwives were killed.

"At least two hospitals have been destroyed and there is a risk of malaria and other diseases.

"Even without this disaster, it can be difficult to transport supplies across Indonesia because it is so spread out, but now much of the infrastructure that did exist has gone.

"In terms of relief, we need everything. We are trying to get a midwife down to Aceh, and vaccinations for children, because life goes on - women are still having babies and children need inoculations.

"We are sending out family packs which contain buckets, water canisters, food, clothing and sanitary products to keep people going while they are under temporary shelters. We are also getting trucks so we can access the more remote areas.

"In the long-term, we are looking at rebuilding health centres, education and communities."

Save the Children

Efforts being intensified to provide food, water, shelter and medical care to children and families in Indonesia and rest of Asia. Largest international aid agency working in the Aceh region; operating there since 1976.