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Army October 15, 2009
By WO2 Graham McBean
IF THERE were ever any doubters of the old mili-
tary adage of the '7 Ps' then the Samoa tsunami
tragedy should cast out any non-believers.
If "prior preparation and planning prevents p***-
poor performance" then the Samoan Government's
emergency management response to the disaster and
the ADF's experience in regional disaster relief opera-
tions -- both in their own ways -- show that time spent
preparing is worthwhile.
Australian High Commissioner to Samoa Matt
Anderson says the national emergency drills devel-
oped by Samoa in the aftermath of the 2004 Boxing
Day tsunami in Indonesia saved lives.
"Samoa is one of the few countries that I am aware
of in the Pacific that has a national disaster plan," Mr
Anderson said. "Twice in the last two-and-a-half years
the Samoans have evacuated Apia and all coastal areas
for national tsunami drills."
While the proximity of the earthquake to Samoa
meant that within 10 minutes the tsunami smashed
upon the coast, he said the evacuation drills had made
"If you think of the magnitude of the destruction
and devastation of more than 20 villages with typical-
ly 200 to 300 people, it may account for the relatively
low casualties," he said.
He said the speed and effectiveness of the ADF
relief assistance was nothing short of astonishing.
The Australian High Commission had come to
grips with what Samoa needed from Australia by mid-
day on September 30. By about the same time the next
day, 30 tonnes of emergency supplies and almost 90
emergency personnel were winging their way to Apia.
By WO2 Graham McBean
WITH some classic understate-
ment Frank Rees says it was "very
pleasant" to see the Australian
aeromedical evacuation (AME)
team cross the tarmac at Apia air-
port to take him home.
The day before, the injured Mr
Rees, his wife, Merilyn, and their
daughter, Felicity, were swept away
by an 8m wave just seconds after
the tsunami sirens has sounded at
the Coconut Beach Resort.
As the massive C-17
Globemaster disgorged medi-
cal and emergency supplies, the
AME specialists from RAAF Base
Williamtown exited the aircraft and
immediately went to work.
Mr Rees and his family were
among the first six Australian
groups medically evacuated back to
RAAF Base Amberley.
"I am so sad to be leaving
Samoa when it is in such a state,"
Mr Rees said. "I am sad for its peo-
ple."Miraculously, Mr Rees was the
only one of his family seriously
injured when the first of four killer
waves pounded the coastal resort.
As he waited patiently in a
wheelchair with his family he spoke
of waking to the earthquake and the
catastrophe that followed.
"It was terrifying. Each of us
thought we would die," he said.
"A wall of water took us away
and almost immediately we were
Survived killer waves
"I saw my wife go in a differ-
ent direction and Felicity and I
went in different directions."
It was during the second wave
that Mr Rees was struck in the
back by a large object and he was
submerged "for quite a long time".
As he recalled the event, Flt-
Lt Lisa Maus and her AME team
began his pre-flight check and sta-
bilisation process on the edge of
Medics checked blood pres-
sure, pulse, temperature, assessed
pain levels and oxygen saturation
and ticked through their check list.
Two AME teams -- each com-
prising a doctor, nurse and med-
ics -- deployed from RAAF Base
Williamtown as the ADF online
Within two hours of the C-17
landing, the patients were ready
and waiting for the Globemaster
to refuel. Shortly afterwards the
aircraft lifted off and headed for
Paradise lost: A New
Force aircraft flies over
part of the devastated
southern side of the
looking for survivors
only hours after the
tsunami hit (right).
In safe hands: LAC Luke Mahalm takes the blood pressure of Frank Ress, an Australian tourist
injured in the Samoa tsunami, before he is evacuated.
Photos by Cpl Chris Moore
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