Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Amateur Radio in Other Areas Affected

The US Amateur Radio Organisation, ARRL, is carrying another update on the current situation in India, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Sri Lanka, with thanks to Bernie McClenny, W3UR, and from Horey Majumdar, VU2HFR.

News agencies now report estimates of more than 27,000 feared dead from the tsunamis(tidal waves) that took place in the Bay of Bengal December 26. The estimated death toll in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands ranges from 2000 to 5000. Horey Majumdar reports that radio amateurs in India are handling hundreds of pieces of health and welfare traffic regarding people missing and from relatives of those living in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which are closer to the earthquake's epicenter.

"There is presently no communication from Nicobar Islands," Majumdar reports, noting that Nicobar received more damage than Andaman. McClenny says a radio-amateur expedition in the area at the time (VU4RBI/VU4NRO DXpedition team) continues to pass emergency traffic. C. K. "Ram" Raman, VU3DJQ, reports he was in contact with Sarath, 4S7SW, a physician operating from the vicinity of a hospital in Mathara, Sri Lanka, which also was heavily hit by the tsunamis. "He is requesting food, clothing and medicines for relief," Raman reported. "He will be listening on shortwave on the frequencies of 14.195 MHz and 21.295 MHz." Telephones are not working in that part of Sri Lanka, he said.

McClenny and Majumdar agree that it was fortuitous that the VU4RBI/VU4NRO DXpedition was under way when the disaster struck. "If there is a positive aspect to this disaster, it may very well be that the Indian government--and others--realize the ability of Amateur Radio during these difficult times," McClenny observed.

The initial earthquake off the Indonesian Island of Sumatra just before 0100 UTC on December 26 now has been upgraded to 9.0 on the Richter scale. Since then, the National Earthquake Information Center has reported some 18 aftershocks split between the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The most recent, just before 0100 UTC today, registered 6.1 on the Richter scale.

Sandeep Baruah, VU2MUE, reports two emergency frequencies have been established. VU4NRO, the team at Port Blair, will be QRV on or near 14.190 MHz. The club station VU2NRO in Hyderabad on the mainland will relay traffic to and from Port Blair.

Other emergency traffic frequencies being reported include 14.193 and 14.160 MHz in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, 7.050 MHz in South India, 7.055 MHz in Indonesia and 7.075 in Thailand, where stations from 4S7, VU2 and 9M2 were reportedly heard.

D.V.R.K. Murthy, VU2DVO,and Jose Jacob, VU2JOS, are now in Port Blair. Reports indicate that some telephone lines are now working, but there still is no water or electricity at the Hotel Sinclair, where the VU4 DXpedition was headquartered.

In the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the most devastated area is Car Nicobar, which has been totally cut off. It is possible that Amateur Radio operators may travel to this area after obtaining clearance from local authorities.

Club station VU2NCT and VU2MUE in Calcutta all are helping with the efforts to pass emergency traffic to Port Blair.

Baruah is operating club radio station VU2NCT in coordination with the National Disaster Control, New Delhi. The Calcutta VHF Amateur Radio Society has set up a control station from Calcutta. Majumdar is operating that station and has been in touch with VU4RBI in the Andamans.

Charly Harpole, K4VUD, who had been visiting the VU4RBI/VU4NRO operation and filing regular reports via The Daily DX now is reported back on the Indian mainland.

Majumdar also tells ARRL that hams from Bangalore and Chennai on the Indian mainland are moving toward Nagapattinam to set up ham radio disaster communication stations at Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu--the worst-affected areas on the mainland. The Indian Army is assisting stations on Andaman by providing logistics and backup batteries.

Majumdar says radio amateurs from Bangalore, Chennai and other parts of South India are trying to set up stations in the affected areas of Tamil Nadu.

James Brooks, 9V1YC, provided additional information via The Daily DX. He says Andaman and Nicobar Islands authorities have asked the DXpedition team for relief communications help. They have requested one station at the deputy commissioner's office in Port Blair and another on the remote Nicobar Islands. VU2RSB will be manning the station at the deputy commissioner's office in Port Blair, and VU2RSI will staff the station at the current DXpedition site until further notice.

He reports the Indian Army will be flying VU2MYH and VU2DVO out to the Nicobar Islands with three days' food, a rig, batteries and an inverted V antenna. The VU4RBI/VU4NOR team was allowed back into the damaged hotel building and Bharathi Prasad, VU2RBI, "is bravely operating on the fifth floor using the Yagi antenna" despite continued aftershocks. Telephones in the building are also working again. Commercial power is returning slowly, but the DXpedition team continues to use battery power most of the time.

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