The ARRL Letter
Vol. 24, No. 13
April 1, 2005


* +Ham radio provides crucial communications in quake's wake


Working under harsh conditions, Indonesian Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) volunteers this week established VHF links between earthquake-stricken Nias Island and northern Sumatra. Nias Island was hit March 28 by nearby magnitude 8.2 and 8.7 underwater earthquakes. More than 1000 people are reported to have died as a result of the earthquakes. The tremors affected some of the same areas still recovering from the December earthquake and tsunami. Although officials and residents remained on alert for tsunamis this week, none occurred. A magnitude 6.3 aftershock occurred in the vicinity March 30.

Organization of Amateur Radio for Indonesia (ORARI) headquarters in Jakarta this week called on its members to be ready to assist. An ORARI team deployed by air to Nias Island March 29 set up "zulu" (emergency) station YB6ZAH in Gunung Sitoli, the island's largest city. YB6ZAH has been in contact with the ORARI District 6 command post in Medan, North Sumatra. The ORARI team already had experience supporting communication following the December 2004 tsunami that claimed an estimated 300,000 lives in South Asia.

In the earthquake's immediate aftermath, ORARI ARES members reportedly were on duty with little or no food to eat, although they did have drinking water. At that point, many victims had not yet been evacuated, and some remained trapped in the debris.

ORARI team members include Zulkarman Syafrin, YC6PLG, Herman Rangkuti, YC6IQ, and Soejat Harto, YB6HB--a medical doctor. Syafrin reports that the earthquake damaged the power, telecommunication and transportation infrastructure or took them out altogether on Nias Island. Buildings in Gunung Sitoli were reportedly flattened and roads severely damaged or impassable.

In the early going, the team was using portable generators and had to restrict operation to every two hours to conserve scarce fuel. TELKOM, the Indonesian Department of Public Telecommunication, has since provided the ORARI ARES team with a bigger generator, and the operation has relocated to the TELKOM building, where fuel is no longer a problem. ORARI District 6 plans to supply more logistical and radio equipment, while Ady Susanto, YB6VK, was preparing a set of solar cells for the ORARI ARES team's use in Gunung Sitoli.

New Mexico radio amateur Earl Campbell, N8TV, now working with the International Red Cross in Banda Aceh on post-tsunami relief, plans to set up an emergency Amateur Radio station on Simeulue Island, which also was affected by the earthquakes. Campbell's IT team reportedly is headed for Nias Island to set up a satellite Internet connection and to support the ARES team in Gunung Sitoli.

Updates on ham radio earthquake relief activity in Indonesia are available on the AB2QV Web site www.qsl.net/ab2qv/nias.htm.
-- Wyn W. Purwinto, AB2QV

Published online by the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL), Newington, Connecticut.

The ARRL�s QST magazine - May 2005 issue - also contains AB2QV�s report on post-tsunami hamradio activities in Northern Sumatra.