Monday, September 12, 2005

Radio Amateur 4S7VK Tsunami Communication Report

Thank you very much for your concern and sympathy. Excuse this general note because with so much to do I will take long to get back to you, so treat this as a temporary message/reply. It makes you comforted to hear from people saying they are releaved we are safe.
The situation is terrible. I feel more than 50,000 may have perished. I am a Radio Amateur/Ham, the President of the National Organization of Radio Hams. We set up emmergency communications via HF and VHF with 2 teams going into very bad desaster areas and gave the Sri Lanka's Prime Minister's Office communications with the coordinating Govt Officer, which had NO communication until we went in to establish HF links.. Our control centre was inside the Prime Minister's Official house in his operational room. Will show how they valued our sces.
The moment we got a message there was a team to handle the request for Medicine, Doctors and so many things. We will continue until such time as the PM needs our help. After that we will try humanitarian help, like tracing missing people in hospitals and setting up communication centres in disaster areas where there is no land lines working and mobile towers, repeaters are down.
Even Satellite phone failed and only HF link was possible. Our batteries were running out and no generators to charge, no electricty, lights etc. in those regions where Telephone exchnges, powerlines and everything for communications was down. Even sateiilte phone let down. No way to charge batteries was another problem. Just plain uncomplicated Short Wave saved lives.
Ham Radio played an important part and will continue to do so. Pray for the People of South and S.East Asia. Thanks again.
As President of the Amateur Radio Society in Sri Lanka it was wonderful even at a tragic time to tell you that the RSSL was able to link up South of Sri Lanka with the Prime Minister who comes from the South and that is where his people are. So we went in and established this HF link with the town of Hambantota. Our Amateur friends 4S7KE (Secretary RSSL), 4S7 AK (Treasurer RSSL) and DZ went in a 4 wheel drive approaching the costal town of Hambantota from the interior as the main road along the cost was badly battered and full of debris and was impassable. So when all the cellular and all other means failed HF Radio stood bold and proud. It is so simple tec nically and although we didnt even have a TS 50 or such a small mobile HF set, we took an Icom IC7400 the best radio we have and two 12v batteries and dipoles some food and water and filled the rest of the vehicle with food for the displaced. I stood by in Colombo at the PM's along with 4S7VJ, 4S7KG, 4S7AB and 4S5BA to run the link in and coordinate. We also had two hams on a moble going along the coast of the South to asses and record damage.
I wish I could scream aloud and tell people in some high places that when all else is dead HF is alive. What do you do when your power goes out, telephones go dead and you can't even charge your batteries of your GTS or Mobile Phone? We had our Morse key handy if we had to operate with just 1 or 2 watts but the batteries held.
Well the Police Radio connected their links 12 or more hours later, but the hams were there before anyone else. Most of the district is so badly battered it will take some time to restore utilities. We operated for 48 hours from the Prime Ministers disaster room and moved out and we are in fax contact now relaying traffic. We also have 4S7SW Sarath operating from another Southern Town "Matara" and two other stations 4S7WI, 4S6NM and others relaying and helping in the disaster traffic passing info to the coordinating centre. We have 3 stations out there and we are trying to connect lost people, pass info on displaced camps and people and the movement of food and essentials. We are trying to expand our coverage but our resourses are limited. Many other hams like 4S7DA, 7WN, 7EA 7CF, 7MM, and some more on HF and others on VHF are helping in the traffic.
Our roll has to change as the situation changes with Govt links comming into operations, yet civilian communication lines and most damaged telecoms will take a long time.. I am here at my desk with my land phone and mobile, a VHF radio and HF radio constantly tuned to our disaster communications freqs trying to coordinate as best as I can. The Sri Lankan hams are playing part under difficult conditions and will continue to do so.
P.S. The DW TRinco was unaffected and is in full operatioon as it is 3 miles inland and the Tidal waves didn't reach that far. However some local staff who live closer to the sea have been affected. The station was off the air for a few hours.
Victor A. Goonetilleke 4S7VK "Shangri-la", 298 Madapatha Road, Kolamunne, Piliyandala. Sri Lanka.