The Nugget Newspaper - News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Local Sisters group aids tsunami victims


Last updated 3/1/2005 at Noon

When the tsunami hit South Asia on December 26 and the pictures of catastrophic destruction began to filter back to Sisters, Craig Morton, his daughter Anna, and Jenny March-Aleu, like virtually everyone, wondered what they could do.

Their answer was more direct than most. They decided to visit Sumatra (Indonesia) and put their hands and hearts to work.

Morton described his trip to Sumatra and illustrated the devastation with pictures he had taken in the tsunami-ravaged area at last Saturday’s Cabin Fever potluck, held in Camp Sherman.

The Morton party spent two weeks there in January and several days in Banda Aceh, Indonesia.

In Banda Aceh, they saw two miles of complete destruction and damage up to four miles inland from the ocean. The town, located 90 miles from the epicenter, saw 35-40-foot waves hurled from their ocean frontage after the December 26th earthquake (9.0). Large boats and ships were piled onto land and buildings were leveled.

Two thousand bodies were being retrieved each day and the entire Province of Aceh suffered an estimated 250,000 dead. Mass graves for speedy burial of the dead were common in this mainly Muslim country.

“Surprisingly, many of the mosques survived or had minor damage, leading to various speculative stories imagining why this was,” said Morton.

A 30-year civil war was still going on, the town had recently undergone a multimillion-dollar beautification program and now the town was ravaged by the tsunami/earthquake destruction.

Many countries were participating in aid efforts according to Morton.

“There were more doctors than patients,” he said.

“Locals were being hired to help in salvage efforts and paid about $3.50 a day. This got them active and provided some money.”

Mercy Corps volunteers brought in rice, water, and other items for the local population. UNICEF also helped with food, water, goats, and other supplies. U.S. efforts were much in evidence and 10 U.S. helicopters were the first to start delivering food and water throughout the province.

Medical personnel were distributing measles vaccinations at centers for children and tetanus shots were available for the population. Malaria, the foremost disease in third-world countries, was much in evidence. A ‘tsunami’ pneumonia, caused by intake of water into the lungs during the flood action, was another problem.

The Morton party pitched in wherever there was a need for a helping hand, delivering water and vaccines — whatever was called for in the need of the moment.

Street markets were again in operation and chain saws were available to start the reconstruction efforts for the community.

“One of the main problems was coordination, logistics, and organization,” said Morton. “With so many countries and groups trying to help at the same time, it was easy to step on each other’s efforts.”

Morton displayed pictures of some of the more extreme Muslim groups rumbling into town in trucks, bringing in dead bodies, and off to their next location.

Displayed in the side alcove of the Community Hall, near the fireplace, were 15 children’s drawings of the tsunami events in Sri Lanka. These were sent by one of the aid workers in that area to a local Sisters relative. They will be displayed in Central Oregon as a reminder of events in Asia.

The talk followed a potluck dinner at Camp Sherman’s Community Hall. Nick Patterson provided guitar music during the dinner hour for a crowd of about 75 people.


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