An aid boat carrying lifesaving supplies and emergency shelter for up to 500 people has reached the Mentawai Islands in Indonesia with people still in desperate need after the recent tsunami.
International disaster relief charity ShelterBox has been working in the country ever since the tsunami hit but the international aid effort has been hit by a string of logistical challenges including atrocious weather conditions.
The Mentawai Islands were the worst hit area when the tsunami struck in late October and are only accessible by a boat trip from Padang, Sumatra. Since last week raging seas and winds in excess of 35 knots had made the trip impossible.
However, ShelterBox were able to take advantage of an open weather window and made the journey from Padang to the Mentawais on Tuesday, November 9. Seven ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) members made the journey onboard the surf charter boat Mikumba 1 along with 50 ShelterBoxes.
Each ShelterBox contains vital equipment a family needs to survive in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. The key item in the large, green boxes is a specially designed disaster relief tent for an extended family. Each box also contains water storage and purification equipment, blankets, a tool kit, a stove, cooking utensils, a children’s activity pack and other vital itmes.
‘We’re hoping to make an immediate difference to families who are without shelter on the Mentawai Islands,’ said SRT member Becky Maynard (UK). ‘We were lucky the weather was kind to us, it was a really smooth crossing. Just a few days ago we were being battered by 35 knot winds and we knew that three aid boats had capsized making the trip but the weather calmed right down for us.
‘In Padang, a local sailor told me these have been the toughest and most challenging conditions he’s ever been in.’
Becky, who was speaking from the boat Mikumba 1 off the coast of Sikakap, added: ‘It’s a relief to finally make it to the islands after facing so many frustrations. We have a potentially long and arduous task ahead of us. We’re now preparing to visit the worst affected areas and will be helping the first families as soon as we can.’
As well as the 50 ShelterBoxes onboard Mikumba 1, a further 70 boxes are en route to Padang with IOM (International Organisation for Migration) and Caritas, another aid organisation operating in the region.
SRT member David Eby (US) is coordinating the effort from Padang.
‘It’s great the team have made it out there safely,’ he said. ‘They’re all in good spirits and have a tough few days ahead of them.
‘The head of BPBD (Indonesia’s regional disaster risk reduction body) has pointed ShelterBox out for specifically providing quality shelter to Mentawai. Based on the report from the team, we’ll be moving more boxes from here as and when we can.’
A third ShelterBox Response Team is due into Indonesia imminently as the relief effort to the disaster-hit country continues.