ITU restores communication links in Indonesia disaster zones

ITU has deployed a hybrid of 40 broadband satellite terminals in an effort to restore vital communication links in the aftermath of a tsunami triggered by a 7.7-magnitude earthquake and a volcanic eruption that hit the Indonesian archipelago in two separate incidents.

As aid and rescue workers battle rough weather and difficult terrain to reach tsunami victims in the remote Mentawi islands off Sumatra, Mount Merapi continues to spew super-heated gas and debris on villages in Central Java. The natural disasters have wreaked havoc, causing untold death and destruction in their wake.

ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré expressed his solidarity with the people of Indonesia and offered his condolences to the bereaved victims of the disaster. “The loss of life and destruction of property as a result of two natural disasters is a matter of deep concern and I offer my heartfelt condolences to the victims and to the people of Indonesia,” Dr Touré said. “ITU will do its utmost to provide assistance to people in the disaster-affected areas by re-establishing telecommunication links which will be vital in the rescue and rehabilitation efforts in the days ahead.”

Re-establishing communications is a critical tool in disaster management to ensure timely dissemination of authoritative information to government entities and aid agencies involved in rescue and rehabilitation efforts. ITU is working with emergency communications partners Iridium Communications Inc., Thuraya, and Inmarsat to ensure connectivity for satellite handsets, which will be used by local authorities to facilitate humanitarian assistance to disaster victims. ITU has also put on standby a Qualcomm Deployable Base Station (QDBS), a reliable, responsive and complete cellular system designed to enable vital wireless communications aimed at strengthening response and recovery mechanisms in a disaster zone. ITU pays for the transportation of the equipment and for the air-time.

Mr Sami Al Basheer Al Morshid, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau expressed his sorrow at the loss of life resulting from the twin disasters. He said, “I am deeply shocked by the death and destruction caused by the tsunami and volcanic eruptions that have hit Indonesia simultaneously. This is a matter of grave concern, and ITU has despatched the forty broadband satellite terminals in an effort to rapidly establish emergency communications to assist in search and rescue operations and to coordinate logistics on the ground.”

ITU is in the process of strengthening its human and material resources in order to respond to natural disasters with more speed and better capability. “This is what ITU’s 192 Member States have directed us to do at the recently held ITU Plenipotentiary Conference that adopted a number of resolutions on effective use of information and communication technologies for disaster risk reduction, disaster management, and climate change adaptation,” said Cosmas Zavazava, Chief, a.i., Projects and Initiatives Department.

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