Samaritan's Purse Airlifts Helicopter, Relief Supplies to Sumatra

A North Carolina-based Christian relief organization sent off a massive cargo jet filled with relief supplies to Indonesia's tsunami-ravaged Sumatra Island Monday, expanding its ongoing relief work in South Asia.

Samaritan’s Purse, which chartered a Boeing 747 cargo jet to airlift a helicopter and tons of emergency supplies to Sumatra, packed the 747 cargo jet with provisions ranged from medical supplies and water filters to plastic sheeting for temporary housing.

“But by far, the most challenging piece of cargo was our helicopter,” said Barry Hall, a Samaritan’s Purse relief worker who helped coordinate the flight.

“To get the helicopter inside the plane, we actually had to take it apart,” Hall said. “When it arrives, our crew of mechanics will put it back together and get it in the air to help the relief effort.”

After last month's magnitude-9.0 earthquake triggered devastating tsunamis that killed over 226,000 people across South Asia, entire villages were wiped out and many roads and bridges destroyed, cutting off thousands of survivors from the help they desperately need.

According to Franklin Graham, the president of Samaritan’s Purse who is currently in Southeast Asia assessing the region’s needs, much of northwestern Indonesia is virtually inaccessible. Many roads are gone and those few stretches that remain are covered in mud and debris.

“Those hard-to-reach areas are where we’re needed most right now and why we need to get air support there as soon as possible,” explained Graham.

“In Meulaboh, on Sumatra’s West coast, it looks like some huge hand just knocked everything down and scattered it. The city has pretty much been wiped off the planet,” said Matt Ellingson, one of the Samaritan’s Purse workers currently in the area.

Adding to the misery of the tens of thousands of survivors, who have no shelter, is Indonesia’s monsoon season. Pounded by torrential rains, completely exposed to the elements, there has been no way for survivors to get any rest.

“They’re completely exhausted, which makes them even more vulnerable to disease,” said Graham.

In addition to the helicopter, Samaritan’s Purse reports that its airlift includes 1,400 rolls of reinforced plastic—enough to build shelters for more than 8,000 families, 15 tons of blankets, ten large filters that can provide water daily for 30,000 people, medical supplies, and a power generator. The airlift is part of a $4 million tsunami aid effort by Samaritan’s Purse.

The agency also reports that Graham will remain in Southeast Asia this week to provide a hands-on assessment of the relief effort.

To find out how to support this group and other Christian agencies taking part in the Tsunami Relief Efforts, visit the Christian Post Tsunami Relief Section at: www.christianpost.com/tsunami