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Army November 12, 2009
Out from under the mud
By LS Paul McCallum
THE remote village of Tandikat, one of West
Sumatra's biggest suppliers of rice, suffered
some of the worst destruction from the earth-
quake that struck the region on September 30.
Darwin-based engineers from 1CER joined
the clean-up effort and helped restore some form
of normality for the residents of the town, which
was swamped by massive landslides.
CO of the field engineering element Maj
Michael Scott said up to 600 bodies were
believed to have been buried in the banks of mud
created by the landslide.
"The mountains around the village have
many natural springs flowing through them. The
earthquake destabilised the mountain sides and
about 400 metres of dirt on each side of the val-
ley were washed over the town," Maj Scott said.
"We understand there were two weddings
taking place at the time and students were still in
class at the local school."
The Indonesian Army assisted with the engi-
neering work and was responsible for removing
any remains that were found.
Evidence of the sheer force of the landslide
were obvious further upstream, where a suspen-
sion bridge across the river partially collapsed.
The main anchor on one side of the bridge
was swept out of the ground and lay about 50m
from where it used to be.
Large fields of debris-filled mud made the
ground unstable and, while the bridge could be
repaired, the job took quite some time.
Around the town, 15 field engineers used
backhoes, and front-end and skid-steer dozers, to
stabilise the area.
Site supervisor Sgt Lesley Burgess said the
focus was on repairing an irrigation channel so
the villages could restore their rice crops and
return to their normal lives.
"There was a large area that we needed to
stabilise before anything else was done here. We
needed to make the site safe for our troops to
work in," Sgt Burgess said.
"We levelled a large area above the aque-
duct and made sure it was stable by including a
retaining slope down to the river.
"Once this was done, we could get down the
bottom and restore the water flow that had been
affected by the landslide."
The task of stabilising the area and restoring
irrigation to the crops took about 10 days. Once
completed, the engineering team was able to
return to Darwin.
By LS Paul McCallum
FIELD engineers from
Darwin helped to clear
debris from a damaged
primary school in the
village of Tandikat
after the earthquake in
Walls in the school's
main classroom and
ing had failed and large
sections of the roof had
Site supervisor Lt
Alex Edgar said the
team had quickly got
stuck into helping the
"We all worked
really hard to get this
site prepared for the
Indonesian Army to
come in and be able to
rebuild the school as
soon as possible," Lt
"We tried to recycle
as much of the original
material as possible to
help reduce the demand
on local supplies."
Walls were knocked
down with a skid-steer
dozer while angle
grinders were used to
cut through reinforced
concrete pillars that had
Once the clearance
work was completed
at the primary school,
the task was repeated
at a nearby elementary
Supporting the engi-
neers were firefighters
from an Army emer-
gency response section
in Darwin and medics
engineers clear debris
School's out: Army
engineers clean up
a damaged school
building in Tandikat
in readiness for
Photos by Cpl Guy Young
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