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First Account from SJAM Penang Tsunami Relief Effort on Dec 26

The Responder : 26 December 2004

Penang — The first ever tsunami hit Penang coastal line painfully on December 26, 2004. SJAM Penang State Commander Mr. Lim Thoon Deong activated the Millennium Combined Adult Division and State Disaster Squad at 14:15PM after he received a call from the Penang Hospital.

Members from both divisions responded and reported to the Headquarters within half an hour.

Members were divided into two teams – first Response Team led by State Staff Officer (Transport), Mr. Low Eng Howe with 8 MiCAD members in two ambulances left the Headquarters heading towards Miami Bay Ambulance Holding Point.

Meanwhile, Mr. Ong Swee Jin led members from the Disaster Squad to co-ordinate logistic and reinforcement plan.

On the way to our destination, sirens could be heard from all corners. Good samaritans were helping the rescue teams by control the traffic, directing rescue teams to where they were heading for. The coastal line was covered with mud and rubbishes; road dividers are displaced, fishing boats were stalled on the main road, road side stalls were badly damaged. Nothing seems to be in good order.

Ambulances with severely injured casualties were hurried for further medical management; rescuers were racing within the golden hour to search for more missing persons. Everyone wanted to minimize the damage of the powerful tsunami.

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St. John Ambulance teams on full alert at Miami Bay Penang

SJAM finally reported in to the Ambulance Holding Point at Miami Bay, Tanjung Tokong. 6 ambulances were lined up waiting for further instructions. Medic Chief, Dr. Teo Aik Howe, assigned SJAM to send an ambulance to backup Klinik Teluk Bahang; another team to set up the Medic Site Control.

The newly introduced PEARL (Penang Emergency Ambulance Radio Link) was proven helpful in ensuring a smooth co-ordination of ambulances especially between agencies.

Our Medic base was later joined by 2 nurses, who are volunteers from St. John Ambulance Victoria, Australia, Peter Altenhof and Anne Roberts. SJAM members handled a few casualties and family members before handling over the responsibilities to the following batch of members.

It was a dark and hard day to spend. Bodies after bodies were discovered with majorities are minors, too innocent to understand the danger of the powerful Mother Nature. Rescuers from Air Itam Volunteer Fire Brigade shared their sadness when they discovered many victims were brought back to land with shocked facial expression and widely open eyes.

An unaffordable lesson for our community to learn about powerful Mother Nature, importance of own safety and think the unthinkable.

Reported by
Gan Hoo Kok and Kelvin Yeoh Koon Yong (corResponders)

Photo Credit:
Kumaradevan a/l Saminathan (corResponder)

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