First Finnish aid team arrives in Indonesia disaster zone

Government has given money through a UN contingency fund, as Finnish experts coordinate aid efforts on the ground.

Picture of aid workers in Indonesia earthquake & tsunami zone / Credit: @palangmerah_indonesia Instagram

The first aid workers from Finland have arrived in Indonesia to help with relief efforts, a week after an earthquake and massive tsunami hit the city of Palu, on the island of Sulawesi.

Now, Finnish experts from the Red Cross are joining Nordic colleagues to help coordinate some of the international aid efforts which have started to pour into the region.

“Our logistics team of four people has been set up to coordinate the international logistic operations with three Danish Red Cross members” says the Finnish Red Cross’s Noora Kero.

At least 1200 people were killed in the 7.5 magnitude quake and the tsunami wave which came after, and the death toll is likely to rise.

Many more people are desperate for food, clean water, first aid supplies and shelter; and with offers of aid coming in from all around the world, that’s where the Finnish Red Cross team can help out.

“Their task is to organize first aid goods transport and storage arrangements, and where the help of local volunteers is really needed” Kero tells News Now Finland.

In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, the organisation sent its Asia representative Andreas von Weissenberg to the scene with a group of international aid experts, who coordinated with the Indonesian Red Cross to make an assessment of what sort of long term help would be needed.

“In the long run, we’re aiming to organise more international assistance where it’s needed” says Kero.

Aerial picture show some of the widespread damage in Indonesia earthquake & tsunami zone / Credit: @palangmerah_indonesia Instagram

Villages completely destroyed

According to the Red Cross, access to the affected area is extremely difficult as roads, bridges and potential landing sites have been washed away.

Still, operations are expanding every day as more help is able to get there.

Rescue crews are finding entire villages completely destroyed. The village of Petobo which had 500 residents no longer exists. And that’s just one example out of many.

Finnish authorities are waiting to see what aid might be needed in the coming weeks and months.

“We are still kind of waiting to see if there will be a request, the work there has progressed rather slowly and it’s still somewhat unclear the full extent of the damage and the assistance that will be needed” explains Claus Lindroos, Director at the Foreign Ministry’s Unit for Humanitarian Assistance.

“The United Nations provided $15m through the central emergency response fund, and we in our turn contribute to that fund. The idea is that it provides the quick funding in cases of emergency and we were pleased to see it has now been activated” says Lindroos.

Picture of aid workers in Indonesia earthquake & tsunami zone / Credit: @palangmerah_indonesia Instagram

Finland responds to global disasters

When disasters strike anywhere in the world, crews in Finland are ready to respond.

There’s a core of 240 rescue experts with specialty equipment, training and resources who can fly from their base in Kuopio.

The government of Indonesia would have to ask the Finnish government directly, or through their embassy in Helsinki; or Finland’s Crisis Management Centre in Kuopio would get instructions from the European coordination centre in Brussels to send personnel.

“We have been building up our system since 1991, and like most of the Europeans,  we have trained the people, we have gear and equipment and we would like to send the teams but we have to be reasonable” Jari Honkanen from the Interior Ministry’s Rescue Service Department told News Now Finland recently.

“We have to respect the country, what are their needs, we don’t just decide in Finland that we will send someone. That would be quite rude” he added.

Constant training programmes

Finland’s international responders come from all across the country, and although they have not yet been called to the latest crisis in Indonesia, they constantly train for potential rescue scenarios.

“They are mainly professional rescue workers, but then we have a medical component, and the [technical staff] plus the base camp, so there are different professions on the team and I think 70% of the roster is rescue workers in Finland” explains Jukka Räsänen recently. He is the Kuopio Crisis Management Centre’s Planning Officer.

“We are keen that personnel come not only from the Helsinki region, it’s the whole of Finland where we have a pool of experts” says Räsänen.

The CMC warehouse in Kuopio is stocked with all the equipment they might need, depending on the rescue mission, and what part of the world they could be called to.

“We are self sustaining” says Räsänen. “That means all the equipment, clothing, tents, technical materials, snowmobiles and ATV all-terrain vehicles”.