IntlSOS 30 Years - From East to West - Page 92



International SOS | From East to West
Half the town was gone, the
hospital was flowing with mud,
bodies were everywhere.
— Mike Hancock
A Personal Experience
Dr Philippe Barrault was in the
Seychelles on holiday when the
tsunami hit. He was about to board
a boat with his wife and daughter
when he saw the sea level suddenly
drop. The Captain of the boat yelled
‘Run’ and everyone did. Philippe could
hear the mooring ropes snapping
under the strain and boats crashing
into each other as they were sucked
downwards. He did not know what
was happening and just wanted to
get his wife and daughter to safety.
Philippe was witnessing at first hand
how disturbing such events can be.
As he says, “normality simply
disappears.” Thankfully this story
ended well as Philippe and his family
escaped unharmed and returned
home to Singapore. Philippe was soon
back at work helping those who had
been less fortunate.
We helped whoever we could, not just our members.
We began by assessing the situation on the ground.
Using our resources and local awareness we were
able to give immediate support to agencies such as
AusAid – the Australian government overseas aid
programme – and the EU mission.
Despite the conditions we managed to evacuate
the first patients out of the area on 27 December.
In total we evacuated more than 100 injured victims
on air ambulances, chartered aircraft or commercial
flights. The majority were tourists vacationing in
Thailand; the youngest was just seven years old.
The medical team worked in the general hospital.
We helped clean up the hospital and supported the
delivery of technical, surgical, nursing, laboratory,
management and administrative assistance.
Our teams helped more than 2,000 individuals
and their families and relief organisations working
in the affected areas, providing medical and travel
advice and organising medical treatment, situation
updates and repatriation of mortal remains. Our
security experts also assisted those in search of
their loved ones and we helped French government
representatives in Thailand identify any French
people who were in hospital and then get them
back home.
As sporadic incidents of violence had been reported,
a security team was also deployed and it assisted
with a non-medical evacuation by helicopter of eight
Indonesians from Singkil, a coastal town near Banda
Aceh, to Medan.
Overall, more than 70 staff, a third of them medical
professionals, worked on the ground around the
clock to help clients and others, supported by the
Assistance Centres in Singapore, New Delhi, Kuala
Lumpur, Jakarta and Bangkok. Many of our people
worked full time for three weeks, and often
throughout the night.
The way we responded was regularly featured on
CNN. It was one of the biggest natural disasters
to date, and we had clients all over world who had
people visiting these popular destinations when
the tsunami struck.
84
Pascal’s powers of persuasion came in handy again.
The French Foreign Minister came to Phuket in the
presidential plane, loaded with emergency supplies
and people to help out. We were asked to assist
with the unloading and transfers to the newly
established Assistance Centre. Pascal realised the
plane would return half empty so he obtained
authorisation from the minister to use the empty
seats to take injured French tourists home.
On 28 December 2004, we launched a tsunami
update website providing the latest information
on all affected regions.

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