Tsunami News Roundup 1/7/05
Pirates, who have long defied marine patrols, were attacking ships near Indonesia's Sumatra island during December, said Noel Choong, head of the International Maritime Bureau's piracy watch center in Kuala Lumpur. But "after the tsunami, everything just stopped," he said.
For a start, the ship had to weigh the need to get close to shore against the advantage of staying in deep water in case another tsunami struck. Even establishing exactly where the shoreline is wasn't easy. The Singaporeans found that the coastline of northwest Sumatra island had shifted, by several hundred meters in some places. "What we have on radar doesn't match what we see on our charts," said one navy officer.
Most obvious landing sites had been swept away. The one surviving concrete jetty was judged unsafe for supporting heavy vehicles. Navy divers scoured the murky waters looking for a practical place to drive its vehicles ashore and into town.
By Tuesday, however, the Singaporeans had established a beachhead and were using excavators and mechanical shovels to shift tons of debris -- battered cars, smashed fishing boats, concrete blocks piled meters deep -- to give themselves a base to enter the city.
In the bay, a Singaporean ship lay at anchor, producing 500 liters of drinking water an hour. A Singaporean engineer was making an assessment of the airport to see what was required to get it back in operation. Alternative helicopter landing pads had been identified in town, and some were already in use.
Supplies are now moving into Meulaboh at 20 times the rate before the landing ship arrived. And a second landing ship is on the way from Singapore. "It means it is possible to get the heavy equipment in now," said Mr. Alwi, the Indonesian minister. Nine days after the disaster struck without warning, some fruit and vegetable markets were starting to open again, he said. "People are picking up."