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South African Volunteers Help Gather the Dead in Banda Ache

South Africa is among many nations that have sent volunteers to areas hit by last week’s earthquake and tsunami. For instance, a South African team from the humanitarian group - Global Relief - is in Banda Ache on Indonesia’s Sumatra Island.

One of the Global Relief volunteers, Richard Verreynne, spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua by cell phone from the military airport in Banda Ache. He described relief work being done.

He says, “There are many, many other countries that have sent teams to assist with relief work here, from Singapore and China and Taiwan. We even have a team that has arrived here from the US. So, from here we have been requested by the local authorities to send one part of our team to the city of Malabu, which is on the west coast. It is a city of 80,000 residents. That was before the earthquake and the tsunamis. And apparently half of the residents of Malabu were wiped out by the tsunami.”

Global Relief volunteers are helping to set up a clinic there. Mr. Verreynne helped Tuesday to recover bodies.” He says, “We (South African, Singaporeans and Chinese) went into the city of Banda Ache. It was approximately five kilometers from the beachside or from the coastline.” They looked for houses bearing sticks with red flags. The flags were put there by Indonesian students who had scouted the area looking for victims. The red markers indicated there were bodies inside the houses.

“We struggled to get in through all the rubble, which was just about roof high in some cases, and the mud and water that was keeping us away from reaching all the homes," he says.

The South African relief worker says the bodies were treated with extreme care. “It really touched me deeply that there was so much respect shown for these bodies and these remains of people. And it just again surfaced that if you value life, then you will also value death and you will value the dead. And that was something that we could take with us today.”