German runs 'renegade' tsunami relief effort

7th January 2005, Comments 0 comments

7 January 2005, SINGAPORE - A 31-year-old German is using two utility turboprop jets belonging to his business to ferry medical aid to the Indonesian town of Meulaboh, among the worst-hit in tsunami- bludgeoned Sumatra. The two planes Christian von Strombeck bought last year to transport seafood from the coasts of southern Java to his factory in Jakarta and his three Indonesian pilots have been flying eight hours a day since 28 December, primarily ferrying medical aid from Medan. The business has been "put

7 January 2005

SINGAPORE - A 31-year-old German is using two utility turboprop jets belonging to his business to ferry medical aid to the Indonesian town of Meulaboh, among the worst-hit in tsunami- bludgeoned Sumatra.

The two planes Christian von Strombeck bought last year to transport seafood from the coasts of southern Java to his factory in Jakarta and his three Indonesian pilots have been flying eight hours a day since 28 December, primarily ferrying medical aid from Medan.

The business has been "put on ice for at least a month," Strombeck told The Straits Times while in Singapore to repair one of his planes. Strombeck, a resident of Pangadaran in southern Java, and his Indonesian wife, Susi Pudjiastuti, 39, run the operation.

"I was looking at the map of the (devastated) area and the landing and take-off sites available, and I thought there was a need for this kind of aeroplane which can take off and land within a short distance of 450 metres," he was quoted as saying.

The only available landing site in Meulaboh is a 550-metre airstrip on which larger rescue jets cannot land, slowing down foreign assistance to the town, Strombeck said.

Describing his help as a "renegade relief effort", Strombeck said his jets, which can carry up to one-and-a-half tonnes of supplies each, allow him to bypass the "logistical and bureaucratic bottleneck" that can hamper larger rescue team.

"It's shocking to see what has happened," Strombeck told the newspaper. He said Meulaboh "is completely destroyed".

He recalled an instance when he picked up a group of field doctors from the Japanese Red Cross who were waiting for transport to arrive.

"They were just standing there, waiting and looking helpless, so I got them up on my plane and flew them to where they had to go," Strombeck said.

"We have the ability to help so many people," said Strombeck, referring to his jets. "It would not be ethical if we had the tools but did not use them."

Strombeck said he bought the planes for SID 7 million (EUR 3.2 million), never imagining that within months they would be saving lives from one of the world's worst tsunamis.

DPA

Subject: German news

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