Russia has provided more than 500 tons of vital relief supplies to the disaster stricken nations of South East Asia

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As of January 14 Russia has delivered more than 500 tons of vital relief supplies to the disaster stricken nations of South East Asia with the overall contribution to the worldwide aid effort estimated at 22 million dollars.

As of January 14 Russia has delivered more than 500 tons of vital relief supplies to the disaster stricken nations of South East Asia with the overall contribution to the worldwide aid effort estimated at 22 million dollars.

The Russian Federation immediately joined the global relief operation to provide humanitarian aid to the countries affected by the natural disaster in the Indian Ocean. From December 26, 2004 to January 5, 2005, Russia deployed duty units from the national humanitarian emergency response corps of the Russian Ministry of Emergencies, men and equipment from the Russian Defense Ministry and the Russian Reserve and other resources to provide the necessary assistance in response to the received requests (the first request for assistance was received from the government of Sri Lanka at 11:30 on December 26, 2004).

In the early morning of December 27, 2004, two Emergencies’ Ministry IL-76 transports departed from Russia on the flight path Moscow-Shardja-Colombo-Shardja-Moscow. The first plane delivered a group of rescue workers, a search-and-rescue helicopter, special transportation equipment and various supplies. The second plane delivered tents and blankets to Sri Lanka.

During the first stage of the relief operation in Sri Lanka, Russia focused on supporting the international coordination of the emergency relief effort. Two representatives of the Russian Emergencies Ministry joined the UN Group on Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC), ensuring that rescue teams and humanitarian cargo from various countries and organizations were received appropriately at the airport in Colombo.

A Bo-105 Eurocopter, which arrived on board one of the IL-76s and thanks to Global Radius technology could be prepared for action in 30 minutes after delivery, proved very effective in rescue operations, including those at the request of the UN Mission. It conducted reconnaissance flights over areas of the island (up to six kilometers inland) devastated by the tidal wave.

In cooperation with officials from the medical department of the Kalutara district, Russian rescue workers immediately joined work to provide medical aid to the local population. They helped 362 injured people, including 114 children aged from 1 month to 17 years, concentrating their efforts on the territory of a Buddhist temple and a Catholic church, where people sought shelter after losing their housing. Considering the complicated epidemic situation, rescue workers had to take strict hygienic measures.

Search-and-rescue operations were focused on areas where the transportation infrastructure and vehicles (roads, trains, and sea-faring vessels) had been destroyed by the tsunami. Groups of local volunteers worked effectively in relief operations under the instruction of Russian experts.

During the initial stage of the relief operation, international rescue teams encountered various problems, including a lack of organization and communications, controversy over the order of relief operations in various regions, and a lack of security. For example, the subversive operations of separatists in the northern regions stopped the relief effort of an Austrian rescue team. Nevertheless, with the creation of the National Relief Management Center under the President of Sri Lanka, the coordination of relief effort improved significantly and the Russian rescue team was sent to southern regions of the island (cities of Kalutara and Galle). Representatives from headquarters of the local branch of the Socialist Party and police were assigned to the Russian team to ensure coordination and liaison.

On December 29, 2004, the third IL-76 with tents, water-purifying systems and disinfectants was sent to Colombo.

On December 30, 2004, the fourth IL-76 flight, carrying three tons of bottled drinking water desperately needed on the devastated Thai coast, took off from Russia along the route Yekaterinburg-Shardja-Phuket-Shardja-Moscow.

On their return flights, the planes carried 113 Russian and CIS citizens who had lost their documents and personal possessions in the natural disaster in Thailand and Sri Lanka, and needed medical assistance, including on the flight.

On January 5-7, 2005, the fifth plane, an IL-76, flew to Indonesia following the route Moscow-Shardja-Medan-Shardja-Moscow, delivering tents, blankets, linen and electric power generators to the island of Sumatra.

Starting from January 7, 2005, in accordance with instructions of the Russian President on further increasing the Russian relief effort to Southeast Asian countries devastated by the natural disaster, the Russian government decided to supplement the efforts of the Russian Emergencies Ministry with aviation and resources from the Defense Ministry, the Russian Reserve, and the Health Ministry. Moreover, the Russian Ministry of Agriculture sent grain supplies to the region.

From January 8 to January 14, 2005, Russia conducted the following flights to increase humanitarian aid.

On January 8, 2005, a Defense Ministry IL-76 plane (sixth flight) delivered tents, linen and water-purifying systems to Thailand (Bangkok).

On January 8, 2005, a Defense Ministry AN-124 plane (seventh flight) delivered tents, linen and water-purifying systems to Indonesia (Medan).

On January 9, 2005, an Emergencies Ministry IL-76 (eighth flight) delivered blankets, linen and electric power generators to Thailand (island of Phuket).

On January 9, 2005, three Defense Ministry planes delivered the first part of cargo for a mobile military field hospital to the island of Sumatra (Indonesia) making the 9th, the 10th, and the 11th flights.

On January 11, 2005, an Emergencies Ministry IL-76 (12th flight) delivered to Sri Lanka humanitarian aid provided by the Belarus Emergencies Ministry: blankets, tents and water-purifying systems.

On January 11, 2005, three Defense Ministry IL-76s (13th, 14th, and 15th flights) delivered the second part of cargo for a mobile military field hospital, doctors and support personnel to the island of Sumatra (Indonesia).

On January 13, 2005, four Defense Ministry IL-76s (16th, 17th, 18, and 19th flights) delivered the rest of cargo, equipment and personnel for a field hospital on Sumatra, and humanitarian aid to the cities of Medan and Benda-Acheh in Indonesia.

Late night on January 13, 2005, two Emergencies Ministry IL-76s (20th and 21st flights) delivered to Colombo (Sri Lanka) a Centrospas airmobile hospital from the Russian Emergencies Ministry reinforced by a team of doctors from the Zashchita All-Russia Center of Medical Assistance and a sanitary-epidemiological group from the Russian Health Ministry.

Thai officials – the deputy permanent secretary of the Interior Ministry, the head of the department for the prevention of emergencies and disaster relief, the deputy governor of the Phuket province, and the acting deputy director general of the Thai international corporation-agency for development attached to the Thai Foreign Ministry, all expressed their gratitude for humanitarian assistance provided by Russia. The Thai authorities proposed developing cooperation with Russia to set up an early warning system for tidal waves, earthquakes, floods, forest fires and other natural disasters based on groundwork accomplished by Russia. Thailand also showed interest in the deployment of Be-200 amphibious planes to accomplish tasks for the Thai Interior Ministry, Defense Ministry and the Coast Guard. In addition, Thai officials expressed their desire to use Russian-made helicopters and crews trained by Russian experts to conduct search-and-rescue operations and to extinguish forest fires. The Thai authorities also highly praised the activities of the Asian branch of the International Association Emercom, which helped coordinate the delivery of humanitarian aid from Russia.

Overall, the parameters of the “air bridge” as of January 14 were as follows:

-- Transport planes from the Russian Defense Ministry and the Emergencies Ministry conducted 21 return flights to deliver humanitarian aid to devastated regions in Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia (the cities of Colombo, Medan and Phuket) with the average flight covering 8,000-9,000 kilometers.

-- the volume of the delivered cargo and equipment, including a helicopter, various cars and special vehicles, was about 4,500 cubic meters, and the overall weight – more than 500 tons.

Considering the additional requests made by the countries affected by the natural disaster, the Defense and Emergencies Ministries planned and prepared, in coordination with the Russian Foreign Ministry, future transport planes’ flights. In addition, the Russian authorities coordinated the activities of various ministries and agencies to increase Russia’s participation in the global relief effort in Southeast Asia.

These future activities include:

-- the deployment of a Russian military field hospital in the city of Benda-Acheh (Indonesia), which suffered the most in the natural disaster;

-- the deployment of a sanitary-epidemiological group from the Russian Health and Social Development Ministry and coordinating officials from the Emergencies Ministry in Phuket (Thailand);

-- the deployment of a reinforced airmobile hospital from the Russian Emergencies Ministry in coordination with the Health and Social Development Ministry in Sri Lanka;

-- further deliveries of emergency relief aid (flour, medical supplies, etc) by Russian Emergencies Ministry planes;

-- the delivery of 20,000 tons of grain by ship organized by the Russian Ministry of Agriculture.

In addition, in the first six months of 2005, the Russian Foreign Ministry plans to donate $10 million to various UN relief organizations to support the global relief effort.

Overall, Russia’s contribution to the global relief effort in Southeast Asia has been estimated at more than $22 million.

The value of Russia’s contribution is not in the large amount of donated funds, but in the implementation of principles that guarantee:

-- the coordination of specific forms of humanitarian aid with local authorities;

-- the direct and precise delivery of humanitarian aid to local people;

-- deliveries in good time;

-- continuous and flexible efforts considering particular requests and the changing situation;

-- coordination of actions and forms of humanitarian aid with the appropriate UN structures;

-- the development of proposals according to the experience of joint global operations in the sphere of emergency relief efforts.—0--

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Dmitri Klimentov