Indonesia earthquake: medical assistance remains priority on Nias island
By IFRC, Geneva
Mar 31, 2005, 20:49

Medical assistance for survivors of the strong earthquake that struck Northern Sumatra on 28 March is the priority for the next few days, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Using two planes, the International Federation has been evacuating severely injured people from the airport on Nias Island to city hospitals in Medan, on the mainland.

“We evacuated 19 people today, people with multiple fractures, infected wounds and skull fractures,” explained Axel Pawolek, who heads the Federation assessment team in Nias. “The road between the airport and the capital city of Gunungsitoli has been cut by a landslide and people are coming in on motorcycles, or are being carried in on foot so they can be treated.”

A French Red Cross medical team has set up a medical post at the airport, where they are giving first aid and doing triage, to identify the most severe cases who need to be evacuated.

In the capital, a Spanish Red Cross doctor is working out of a health post, with assistance from Palang Merah Indonesia (PMI - Indonesian Red Cross) health personnel. A Japanese Red Cross medical team has set up a field health post in the capital as well. “The city’s hospital was destroyed in the quake,” says Axel Pawolek, “killing all the patients and the medical personnel.”

“For the next 3 to 4 days medical needs must be met as a priority. We then need to see that people are sheltered as soon as possible. Additionally, many people still remain under the rubble, and we have only covered a small area of the island. We still have no information about the remote areas,” adds Axel Pawolek.

Two flights carrying Federation relief items, including tarpaulins, tents, clothing, bedding, four-wheel-drive vehicles as well as enough medicines and medical supplies to treat 10,000 people for three months, have landed on Nias.

On the island of Simeulue, the team reported that approximately 10% of buildings and infrastructure was damaged or destroyed by the earthquake, including the airstrip, which can only take small planes. According to local health officials, at least 100 people died and dozens were injured.

Relief efforts are being hampered by damaged or destroyed infrastructure, not only on the islands, but also on the mainland – the road between Medan and Meulaboh was closed due to a landslide triggered by the earthquake. Three people died in Meulaboh when a house on the road to the airport collapsed during the tremor.

The Federation is sending relief stocks from warehouses in Meulaboh, Medan and Banda Aceh to the islands. No additional funds are required for this relief operation.

The International Federation is currently supporting the Indonesian Red Cross distribution of food and relief items to some 11,500 survivors of the 26 December tsunami on the Island of Simeulue.

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