Chapter One - Overview > Year in Review > Special Feature: Operation Sumatra Assist
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Year in Review | Special Feature

Operation
Sumatra Assist

A shore party of sailors from HMAS Kanimbla nicknamed the 'Kindergarten Cops' play soccer with children of the earthquake-damaged town of Lahewa, on Nias island, to keep them entertained while Kanimbla's medics run a clinic attending to the injured.
A shore party of sailors from HMAS Kanimbla nicknamed the "Kindergarten Cops" play soccer with children of the earthquake-damaged town of Lahewa, on Nias island, to keep them entertained while Kanimbla's medics run a clinic attending to the injured.

Following both the 2004 South-East Asian tsunami and the March 2005 earthquake, Defence played a vital role in the Australian Government's national humanitarian relief effort to Indonesia. During this event, Defence demonstrated not only its effectiveness in a whole-of-government context, but also its capacity to provide an integrated and coordinated response through the combined effort of the ADF and a number of Defence Groups.

Operation Sumatra Assist, and Sumatra Assist Phase II, was the ADF's contribution to the Australian Government effort to provide assistance to people affected by the tsunami disaster and the earthquake. Sadly, nine ADF members lost their lives in a tragic helicopter accident on the 2 April 2005 during Operation Sumatra Assist Phase II.

Relief assistance provided by Australia was part of a cooperative effort involving the ADF, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Emergency Management Australia.

I bring Indonesia's message of heartfelt thanks and gratitude, especially from the people of Aceh and North Sumatra, for the generous contribution and acts of compassion and solidarity shown by the people and Government of Australia immediately after the tsunami.

I salute the soldiers of the Australian Defence Forces and the Australian relief workers, who worked tirelessly side by side with the Indonesian military, during the emergency relief operations.

His Excellency Dr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
President of the Republic of Indonesia
Parliament House, Canberra
4 April 2005

Within 36 hours of hearing the news of the impact of the tsunami, Defence had dispatched initial personnel and emergency supplies to Indonesia. In consultation with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and AusAid, and working with the Indonesian Armed Forces and other foreign force elements in Sumatra, advisers were sent to assist local commanders, and various local command centres were established. This was a complex, but very successful, whole-of-Defence operation.

Banda Aceh and surrounds was one of the worst affected areas. Many of the emergency-services for the region had been destroyed and there was no sanitation, food or running water. The hospital was completely unusable, filled with mud, and the equipment rendered useless. Within days of the disaster, ADF Army engineers had established a clean water supply, which worked around the clock to supply the thousands of survivors with limited clean water. In addition, the ADF established the ANZAC Field Hospital, a field hospital operated jointly by medical personnel of the ADF and the New Zealand Defence Force. The early establishment of these types of services played a significant role in averting a major outbreak of disease.

The ADF's achievements during Operation Sumatra Assist included:

  • distributing 1,200 tonnes of humanitarian aid by air,
  • undertaking 70 aero-medical evacuations,
  • providing air transport for 2,530 people,
  • providing 3,700 medical treatments,
  • producing 4.7 million litres of clean water,
  • clearing 9,000 cubic metres of debris and 1,700 large drains, and
  • salvaging six large fishing boats.

Members of the 1st Combat Engineer Regiment (1CER) are assisting the people of Banda Aceh by removing fishing boats and debris swept into the city.
Members of the 1st Combat Engineer Regiment (1CER) are assisting the people of Banda Aceh by removing fishing boats and debris swept into the city.

After another earthquake in March, two C-130 aircraft were dispatched with medical supplies, bottled water, tarpaulins, rations and water purification tablets. This was followed by a 43-strong medical team to provide surgery, intensive care, X-ray, pathology and post-operative care.

HMAS Kanimbla, an amphibious transport ship with a well-equipped medical facility, was also diverted, from Singapore enroute to Australia, to provide assistance to the earthquake victims.

Again under trying circumstances, during Operation Sumatra Assist Phase II, the ADF:

  • delivered 133 tonnes of rice,
  • provided 5,000 litres of water,
  • provided medical treatment to 570 people,
  • conducted 13 Surgical and further treatments on board HMAS Kanimbla,
  • undertook seven Sea King aero-medical evacuations,
  • repaired the Lahewa town water pump and generator, and
  • moved over 138 tonnes of stores by C-130 Hercules.

Australian Army Engineers take their equipment ashore to support tsunami relief and reconstruction at Banda Aceh, Indonesia.
Australian Army Engineers take their equipment ashore to support tsunami relief and reconstruction at Banda Aceh, Indonesia.

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