New Zealand Embassy Jakarta, Indonesia

New Zealand aids tsunami victims through SurfAid

SurfAid International loading the Huey surf charter boat in the port town of Sikakap, Mentawai Islands

New Zealand support in the wake of the devastating tsunami that hit the Indonesian Islands of Mentawai recently was witnessed firsthand by Kirk Yates, New Zealand’s Aid Development Counsellor based at the New Zealand Embassy in Jakarta
“We channelled 450,000 New Zealand dollars through Surf Aid International (SAI), a non-government organisation founded by a New Zealander, which led the immediate relief effort and helped them secure all-weather boats that could get to affected communities when most others could not”, said Mr Yates who spent four days in Mentawai assessing the damage caused by the tsunami.
The latest report from the Indonesian Government states that 447 people have been killed, 57 are missing and more than 15,000 people have been displaced from their homes and are living in temporary shelters, many on the hills above their villages as they fear another tsunami.
The 7.7M earthquake triggered a tsunami, which has been recorded as being up to six metres high in some villages and struck on 25 October.
“The day after the earthquake, Andrew Judge, the Director of SAI, rang me with the news that some of their communities had been devastated by a localised tsunami. They needed help with a rapid response,” said Mr Yates.
New Zealand’s aid programme was able to respond quickly and provide support for the first two weeks’ emergency operations.
“With that help SAI were able to secure and mobilised five all-weather surf boats, the only ones that could operate at that time due to the bad weather and high seas.
“They were able to visit all the smaller villages affected twice in the first eight days, dropping food, tarpaulins and essential supplies,” he said.
“Local government officials were able to accompany them during the pre-assessments, giving time for the Governments disaster response to kick in.”
Bad weather has hampered recovery efforts, said Mr Yates who took two hours to reach one of the worst hit villages nearest the main settlement. He found many villagers had escaped to higher ground and were living in makeshift structures.
“They were setting up temporary shelter in two locations on higher ground, the furthest an hour and a half trek through knee high mud.”
Villagers that had undergone tsunami preparation training said that this was a key reason that they survived, as they were already evacuating the village when they heard the wave coming, he said.

“We had just finished with the 2009 Padang earthquake recovery project so my aim was to get an understanding of the scale of the disaster and what SAI were faced with, along with the level of response they had mobilised, the systems they had in place to track supplies and expenditure in a high pressure situation.
“The only means of getting around this group of islands is by small boat. There are no jetties or loading ramps and no road access. Livelihoods are based around fishing and fresh produce gardening.”
When the seas are rough, as they were during the emergency relief operation, access is impossible, said Mr Yates.
“Under these circumstances, SAI has done a great job and continues to do so as they kick off the ongoing 11-month recovery work programme which is also being supported by New Zealand,” said Mr Yates.
New Zealand aid programme funds support SAI with ongoing community based health care programmes in Mentawai as well as in nearby Nias Islands. Following the 2009 Padang earthquake New Zealand also supported SAI recovery programmes.

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