Relief comes from near and far, even peninsula

Posted: Thursday, December 30, 2004

The earthquake and tsunamis that struck Indian Ocean coastlines this weekend push disaster levels higher with every passing day, and relief from all parts of the globe is just now getting to the places needing it most.

Kenai resident Chad Wagoner returned Tuesday morning from a two-month trip to the island of Java, Indonesia, which sits below Sumatra. Though he was not near the areas most affected by the earthquake and tidal waves that occurred Sunday, he said a friend with the Red Cross has given him personal reports on the situation.

"The spot hit hardest was a piece of land that was surrounded by three sides of ocean and connected to a major river, so the tidal wave also traveled up the river, which took out the hospital and electricity. And even if planes could land close by, people couldn't get around because the bridges were washed away," he said.

Wagoner's own experience with the area taught him about how much damage a tidal wave would do.

"There are not brick buildings like we have here, but lots of small huts. I can see how just about everything would be wiped away," he said.

Ron and Kim Linegar, formerly of Nikiski, were hosts to Wagoner on his trip. Ron Linegar said he has representatives from Mountainview International Christian School on Java who have gone to join Red Cross-United Way efforts.

"Our representatives have about 11 doctors and tons of medical gear they are taking in. The only road in was destroyed, and all electrical and telephone services are out. The only way to reach the area is by helicopter. Our friends say bodies are literally strewn all over the streets and nobody will really know how many are dead for some time, but the expectation is over 100,000. We are limited to being able to help by sending money and goods," Linegar said Wednesday.

The 9.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Indian coastlines Sunday was the largest in the world since the Good Friday Earthquake that hit Alaska in 1964. According to the World Health Organization, the total number of people affected could be anywhere between 1 to 3 million people. The State Department said 12 Americans died in the disaster; seven in Sri Lanka and five in Thailand. However, about 2,000 to 3,000 Americans are unaccounted for.

The tsunamis triggered by the massive earthquake have im-pacted 12 nations from east Africa to southeast Asia. Without actually being in southeast Asia, one way Alaskans can help is through international organizations. The American Red Cross of Alaska Kenai Peninsula press release stated the best way to contribute was through financial donations.

Joe Mathis, chief executive officer of the American Red Cross of Alaska, said the organization encourages people to donate any amount they can.

"We know Alaskans are generous. We will work with the International Red Cross to ensure the most urgently needed items are purchased as close to the disaster sites as possible," he said. The Alaska to Asia Disaster Relief Fund is set up as account number 6681201676 at Wells Fargo Bank. The Red Cross of Alaska special account has a goal of $50,000 by Jan. 7. For more information on where to donate, go to www.muni.org or www.alaska.redcross.org on the Internet.

Unocal also has been contributing to relief efforts through world charities and disaster relief funds with a 1 million Baht ($25,000 U.S.) civilian donation. Total contributions from Unocal's production plant in Thailand have exceeded $60,000.

Unocal responded to its employees with an internal bulletin Tuesday stating all 3,600 employees based in Bang-ladesh, Indonesia, Myanmar and Thailand were safe and accounted for. There were no known employees affected by the event.

The report also said Thailand employees are participating in the recovery efforts in concert with the ministry of energy and other Thai authorities. A company helicopter assisted with the medical evacuation of some of the injured. The helicopter transported patients from Ta Kua Pa Hospital to the hospitals in Ranong and Songkhla provinces and will remain on standby.

Unocal is in contact with nongovernmental organizations in Indonesia, Myanmar and Thailand like the International Federation of the Red Cross and CARE International.

A separate news release reported the company provided two freezer containers and more than 450 body bags, which were sent to Krabi, Indonesia, on Tuesday.



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