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Tsunami goodwill offers threatened by slow response


ENGINEERING COMPANIES this week expressed frustration that offers of free support for tsunamiravaged areas around the Indian Ocean were not being taken up.

They warned that their offers would lapse soon.

'The offers are on the table now. But in three months' time we would be looking for a more commercial response, ' said one senior consultant.

Coastal areas across eastern Somalia, India, Sri Lanka, southern Bangladesh, western Burma, Thailand and northern and western Indonesia were all hit by the tsunami, which struck on 26 December. The huge tidal waves were generated by an undersea earthquake which was estimated to have measured nine on the Richter scale.

Since the tsunami, consultants, contractors and engineering clients have offered free help to support follow up work to the initial relief effort.

They have contacted humanitarian agencies, the Department for International Development (DfID) and local governments in the tsunami region with their offers but have been stonewalled.

'We've offered engineers, time and resources to RedR, the DfID and governments in Sri Lanka, India and Thailand, ' said one senior UK consultant.

'What we are getting is: 'thank you, we'll keep you in mind', ' he said.

'It is chucking away charity that if they moved quickly they could take advantage of, ' he added.

ompanies like Parsons Brinckerhoff, Thames Water, Halcrow, Scott Wilson, Black & Veatch and Arup said they were eager to contribute resources free of charge ahead of funded reconstruction contracts.

Efforts to offer aid have also been undermined by confusion over the exact state of tsunami affected areas. This week Sri Lankan offi cials told NCE that much damaged infrastructure had been repaired, at least temporarily.

But media reports from the north west of the country showed that no repairs had been attempted on a coastal highway which had been reduced to rubble and was impassable to vehicles.

Indonesia had still to establish the condition of some of its roads on the remote north west coast, as NCE went to press.

DfID this week urged companies to encourage individuals to sign up to RedR. 'It really is the best way to offer your services, ' said DfID conflict and humanitarian affairs department (CHAD) response manager Colum Wilson.

Engineer and former RedR volunteer Wilson said the demands on the newly launched RedR database by humanitarian agencies were massive.

As the agencies geared up their response more engineers would be needed.

DfID does have specific needs such as water treatment plant, bulk transport, communications equipment and helicopters, he said.

RedR director Bobby Lambert stressed the need to send the right aid at the right time.

'We have to make sure we target what is needed and not what we want to offer, ' he said.

Aid volunteers organisation VSO is also advising those who wish to help to make financial donations as the most effective form of support in the short term.

'It will be in the months and years to come that volunteers can contribute most effectively, it said.

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