French navy ships aid to Indonesia’s Meulaboh

12th January 2005, Comments 0 comments

ON BOARD THE JEANNE D'ARC, Jan 12 (AFP) - The French helicopter-carrier Jeanne D'Arc was heading for northern Indonesia Wednesday on a mission to deliver humanitarian aid to the tsunami-hit town of Meulaboh.

ON BOARD THE JEANNE D'ARC, Jan 12 (AFP) - The French helicopter-carrier Jeanne D'Arc was heading for northern Indonesia Wednesday on a mission to deliver humanitarian aid to the tsunami-hit town of Meulaboh.

Helicopter pilots on the ship were busy training Tuesday, hauling medicines and other aid into the air and suspending them above the bridge while soliders sorted the supplies and stacked them in a nearby hangar.

The Jeanne D'Arc left Djibouti earlier Tuesday with six helicopters and 600 crew to transport 6,000 food rations, 800 tonnes of water and water treatment equipment, five tonnes of medicine and field medical posts.

It is expected to arrive in Indonesia on Friday.

Until Tuesday, Meulaboh had only been reachable by air or sea as most major roads to the town have been washed away. Ships from the Indonesian, US and Singapore navies have brought in supplies while helicopters have made airdrops.

"The tension will certainly mount before our arrival in the (disaster) zone, but, for now, we are trying to make the best of the time we have left to prepare," said an officer on the ship after it left the French military base.

The Jeanne D'Arc had already participated in humanitarian operations, in particular last year in Haiti, but it had never undertaken an operation of this magnitude, he added.

"The Indonesian authorities estimate that only 30,000 to 40,000 of Meulaboh's 100,000-strong population are left," said Christophe Bergey, the ship's press officer.

With an accompanying frigate, Georges Leygues, the Jeanne D'Arc can produce 50 tonnes of drinking water each day in addition to its own requirements.

Its medical setup includes an operating bloc, two intensive care beds and two hospital beds. A total of 20 doctors and a dozen nurses were making the voyage.

The final destination of the Jeanne D'Arc was still being discussed with the United States and the Indonesian authorities, but it was expected to drop anchor off the northern coast of Sumatra between the towns of Meulaboh and Banda Aceh some time on Friday.

"We will position ourselves between 10 to 20 nautical miles (18.5 to37 kilometres)" off the coast, said the captain of the helicopter-carrier, Marc de Briancon.

As the nearest refuelling points were Banda Aceh and Medan, some 200 kilometres apart, the helicopter carrier could also serve as a fuel station for the fleet of helicopters delivering relief, the captain added.

The first major convoy of aid trucks reached Meulaboh Tuesday, more than two weeks after it was almost completely cut off by the tsunami disaster, which killed an estimated 28,000 people there when waves swept inland.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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