Brussels - Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is sending many additional emergency aid workers to South Asia over the coming days to assist with relief for the victims of yesterday's earthquake and tsunami. Assessments are already underway in India, Thailand and Malaysia. Other staff are travelling to Sri Lanka and Sumatra island in Indonesia, or will be within the next 48 hours.
"Our team from Jakarta expects to arrive in northern Sumatra soon," said emergency coordinator Jan Weuts who oversees the Indonesian side of the operation from the MSF office in Brussels.
"We also have seven aid workers leaving for Indonesia from Europe today and tomorrow. The cargo flight with relief materials from Ostende should arrive on Sumatra no later than Wednesday." Sumatra, the landmass closest to the epicentre of the earthquake, seems to be as devastated as the areas from Sri Lanka and India from where images are available. It is therefore of vital importance that needs assessments can start soon.
"We expect to find the damage inflicted by two consecutive disasters. The earthquake and aftershocks have caused buildings to collapse, and the subsequent tidal waves will have created further havoc," said Weuts. Meanwhile, a team of seven staff is on its way to Sri Lanka's north-eastern coast. More emergency workers will follow in the course of the week.
In Malaysia, MSF is now looking at the coastline north of Penang island. In Thailand, an assessment is underway for the part of the southern coast bordering with Myanmar. "Our team in India reached Chennai today, the city formerly known as Madras," says Weuts.
"They report that some initial aid is being provided there, but much more will be needed. This team will travel further south tomorrow." MSF is preparing to send around 32 tons of relief materials to Sumatra within 36 hours. The cargo includes generators, water bladders and tanks, plastic sheeting, mosquito nets, chlorination kits, a hospital tent, medical supplies and various other items for the first stage of the MSF intervention. "Malaria and dengue fever will be big problems in the current situation," concluded Weuts.
"We are specifically looking at limiting the risk of these diseases driving up the already horrible death toll, in addition to preparing for what we know to expect from our previous experiences of the aftermath of earthquakes and floods."