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Indonesia battles to keep aid flowing


PROGRESS IN re-establishing infrastructure in Indonesia's devastated Banda Aceh region has been slow as local government has been wiped out, engineers on the ground said this week.

Up to half the local government officials in the province are feared dead and state government is trying to install new personnel to co-ordinate relief and reconstruction, said PT Mott MacDonald president David Parry.

'This country was the hardest hit and the remote parts are relatively poor. We have offered aid through DfID and the UN but we haven't heard anything yet, ' he said.

Limited airport capacity is also hampering aid efforts in the region.

'Three airports are critical: Banda Aceh in Sumatra, Medan in Indonesia and Subang in Malaysia, ' said a DfID spokeswoman. All three are unused to handling the large size and numbers of planes now needing access.

Air affic control is a key issue at Banda Aceh after earthquake damage cracked the main control tower. A temporary tower has been set up but capacity is reduced.

Two accidents, including one caused by a water buffalo on the runway, have also caused holdups.

On the roads, heavy pounding by other disaster relief traffic could cause new problems for the ongoing aid efforts, Save the Children project manager and RedR member Tony Smith told NCE.

Heavy trucks will need to use routes not designed to take such large capacity vehicles.

Some of the coastal towns on Sumatra's west coast are still inaccessible and aid has been flown in by Indonesian military and US navy helicopters. Small naval landing craft have also been used to ferry aid from ships off the coast.

'The situation is made worse by the heavy monsoon rains, ' said Smith.

Logistics pecialist Wilson James managing director Gary Sullivan told NCE that the need to keep roads open was urgent and would remain important for the second phase of relief efforts as emergency aid and rescue now gives way to reconstruction.

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