Wednesday, January 05, 2005

In Aceh

First posted at Normblog

It is remarkable the speed of developments here. It has been only 10 days since the disasters. President Susilo Bamabang Yudhoyono and Vice-President Jusuf Kalla have each made two trips to Aceh, as have most of the cabinet. Aceh has already been opened up to foreign aid agencies (50 of them so far!), foreign journalists and even the Australian air force and US marines are on the ground. The Aceh provincial government was virtually wiped out, so too the local administrations of Banda Aceh and the west coast regencies; the regional police lost half their men (and families) and security hard-liners in the central government and army are momentarily sidelined. Australia and the US are controlling air traffic at Banda Aceh airport, trucks are moving in from Medan and the east coast ports are chockers. Unfortunately the earthquake/tsunami double whack destroyed roads and bridges into the west side where all the suffering is. What this means is that there are mighty log jams which are preventing even more aid and personnel being shifted around quickly at this stage.

Despite the cruelty of the thought, transportation and engineering specialists are needed first. Once the logistics are sorted out over the next few days I am sure the medical people will be streaming in. I am more concerned with the long-term capacity problem of local, useful institutions like the Indonesian Red Cross (which is getting a pittance of the charity money raised world-wide) once the internationals move on to the next big show (or abuse their welcome) - and also with the, to date unaddressed, need to get thousands of Acehnese out of the province until infrastructure can be restored - as in Darwin in 1974.