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Indonesian Tsunami Survivors Arrive to Help Earthquake Victims


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Victims of the recent earthquake that hit the Indonesian island of Sumatra are getting help from their neighbors to the north, survivors of the 2004 tsunami. In addition to providing material support, these groups bring experience in coping with disaster.

Victims of last month's earthquake in southwestern Sumatra are getting help from more than 30 countries.

And from countrymen who only five years ago survived the worst natural disaster to hit the world in decades, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

Volunteers from Indonesia's Aceh province have headed to Padang, the hardest-hit city in the September 30 quake, which killed hundreds and destroyed as many as 180,000 buildings.

A coalition called the Aceh Humanitarian Axis is raising money, collecting donations and sending volunteers.

So far the group has sent 40 volunteers, some of whom are specialists like doctors and disaster management experts.

Lilianne Fan, an advisor to the governor of Aceh, says the volunteers bring something to Padang that other volunteers may not have.

"These organizations are made up of people who are directly affected by the terrible disaster of 2004," Fan said. "So they have themselves experienced what it is like to be survivors of a devastating natural disaster."

More than 200,000 people died in the 2004 tsunami, the vast majority of them in Aceh. Since then, the people of Aceh, with the help of the Indonesian government and international aid organizations, have rebuilt their communities.

She says the Aceh tsunami survivors can relate to the Padang earthquake victims on a personal level and help them deal with their loss and grief. The Aceh survivors can share practical knowledge on the process of setting up camps and clinics, and cleaning up debris. And they can provide contacts and procedures for securing aid from the government and international organizations.

Fan says the Aceh relief effort is motivated in part by gratitude for all the help Aceh received after the tsunami.

"It is saying thank you by showing solidarity themselves. It is kind of giving back the good will that was given to them," she said.

She says by helping the victims of the Padang earthquake, the tsunami survivors of Aceh are paying the debt they owe.


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