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18.01.05 - TSUNAMI RELIEF UPDATE
THE wretched ongoing tragedy of the Asian Tsunami has darkened and tangled the emotions of us all, but we should feel proud of the compassion and assistance that has been forthcoming from the surfing industry and surfing fraternity in general. Our three big industrial brothers Quiksilver, Billabong and Rip Curl have been generous and forthright in providing large amounts of funds, facilities and personnel, on site there along the ravaged coastlines of the region, putting back into the area that the surfing world has been so blessed by over the years.
Quiksilver International’s Kirk Willcox is there on the ground at Padang in West Sumatra, assisting SurfAid with their communications. He is posting regular reports of both text and photos onto the web at www.quiksilver.com to keep us up to date with progress there. Check out this informed source. If you personally wish to donate towards relief efforts, we encourage and endorse the SurfAid campaign at www.surfaidinternational.org.
We today received the following report relayed from American Bill Sharp who is Acting Director for an independant relief effort called the ‘Sumatra Surfzone Relief Operation’. Reproduced below is a despatch from surf journo’ Matt George, who is aboard the ‘Mikumba’, attempting to deliver supplies and aid in the Nias region:

SUMATRA SURFZONE RELIEF OPERATION
DISPATCH FROM MATT GEORGE
ABOARD THE MIKUMBA
SIMEULUE ISLAND, ACEH, SUMATRA, INDONESIA
1800 HRS MONDAY 17JAN05
After forty-eight hours out of sight of land in the voyage from Padang, the Mikumba and her fellow convoy ship Asia dropped anchor in Gunung Sitoli Harbor, East Nias.  Nothing had prepared us for the chaos that reigned on the dock as our envoy stepped ashore.  The main hub of aid materiel delivery from the mainland, Gunung Sitoli had the distinct feeling of a pirate town under martial law.  Boats jammed the small piers jockeying for space as ferries loaded themselves with more refugees hoping to find more safety across the channel on the bruised mainland of southern Aceh province.

We were also met with horrific stories of damage and loss of life in the remote villages of northern Nias.  Taking action, we attempted to thread our way through the local politics.  It soon became apparent that in addition to the aid actually getting through, a thriving black market system was in place with agents of all sorts attempting to take advantage of the confusion and vying to take control of any and all aid materials.  Refusing to turn the Asia's precious ten tons of materials over immediately proved perilous indeed and as midnight approached, tensions were high.  Just when riot and mayhem appeared about to ensue, the Vice Governor, hearing of our presence, arrived with an armed entourage and escorted the Asia's supplies to a secure dockside warehouse.  With the guidance of the Vice Governor's office, from there we were able to secure two trucks which were readied to leave at dawn overland to Lahewa and other remote villages on the Northwest coast of Nias, in the trusted charge of a grassroots Belgian aid organization on mission not unlike ours; to circumvent the confusion and bureaucracy and just get things done.

During the mayhem, we also covertly offloaded several hundred rescue buckets, two tons of fresh produce and two tons of fresh water off the starboard side to a known and trusted local captain who had family to the north and was sailing under the cover of night to make a direct delivery.  Our work done, we secured another volunteer doctor and bid good-bye to the Asia, which was headed for the mainland port of Sibolga with urgently needed helicopter fuel for Kerry Sieh, the CalTech geologist who is measuring the precise movements of land masses by the earthquake. 

Under a star-sprayed sky we set sail for the remote reaches of Simeulue Island.

Dawn brought engine trouble so we put in for repairs at the uninhabited Bankaru Bay in the Banyak Islands.  It was here that we came face to face with a grim reminder of this terrible tragedy.  Here on this idyllic beach we came across the remains of a man curled up in a posture of terror, the surf licking at his heels.  It was a sobering, very human moment to all hands.  After a few quiet words spoken over him we bid farewell to this lost soul and continued north.

Proceeding on, the sea became more and more choked with debris and more and more floating bodies were seen in various stages of decomposition.  Our Australian journalist David Sparkes made it his job to call out a blessing to each body we passed. 

At dusk, we just had time to reconnoiter a small fisherman's camp on a tiny island just north of the Banyaks.  An eerie silence fell as a small team walked into the beachside jungle to investigate.  Evidence of a huge wave, 15 feet or more, was seen as we picked through the obliterated tumbled-down settlement.  No survivors were found, but as we left, we could see large carrion birds circling the impenetrable jungle further inland. 

With night falling, we returned to the Mikumba and shared a quiet dinner with all hands perhaps recalling the indelible image of that lost soul we found on the beach, his ravaged skull facing the sea, its features contorted into a silent scream of outrage for eternity.

Dawn, January 17, 2005. 
The Mikumba dropped anchor at Katit Bay, southern Simeulue and deployed one ton of supplies and allowed our doctors time to treat a small number (approximately 50) of the local populous for a variety of ailments, mostly wound and respiratory infections and related pain issues. 

Securing the necessary papers to travel in the waters of Aceh province, we then took onboard a Captain with the Indonesian Army for security against the pirates who are now plying these waters.  We then set sail for the waters of Simeulue's Alafan region, an area scant miles from the epicenter of the massive quake, where rumors of a 60-foot wave swept ashore December 26.  No reliable word has come from many of the remote villages of this region.  As far as we can tell, the Mikumba will be the first relief boat to reach these shores.

ADDITIONAL NOTES FROM SAT PHONE CONVERSATION:
as transcribed by Bill Sharp
Politics are rife but the team is rising above it, not letting anyone divert us from the mission at hand. 

Spirits onboard are high, everyone is well and working together unbelievably.  To see Timmy Turner's mom walking though the surf, helping carry a 100 lb bag of rice....

In addition to the Indo Army officer, the team has taken on another doctor and another ship's captain knowledgeable in these waters.  Now 14 onboard.  Very well equipped for anything which might happen.

The Mikumba still holds 20 tons of supplies ready to distribute to the north of Simeulue.

RE: NIAS  There is plenty of aid arriving there.  Can't say that Nias is fine, because it's just...chaos.  The black market, the government is stockpiling [goods]...it's made us pretty angry.  I was hoping these people would...life is cheap, this stuff is pouring in and warehouses are filing up and people are controlling it...

Our mission, even at periods odds is to get the supplies to the people who need it most.  And we will not hesitate.

We're doing everything we can.  We're just this little independent mission, the spirit is still high, everyone has just been incredible. We're just a very, very happy ship and we're doing great things and our first really warm thanks came today from the village and it was a really good feeling.  The Katit village head came out and shook our hands and you could see it in their eyes.  They were so thankful.

The aid is pouring in, but these people aren't getting it.  When we sail up in our little boat and bring our little dinghy onshore and start unloading onions and potatoes and stuff...they're stoked.
    
ENDS