Hong Kong Doctor Tse Tze Wah-------Diary in Banda Aceh

"Expect for the worst, it is ok if you want to leave anytime."

January 7, 2005 (Aceh)

Few hours after I arrived at MSF's temporary office in Jakarta, I was joined by 15 other MSF relief workers from Norway, Italy, Belgium and Germany. They are from both medical and non-medical background including doctors, nurses, and some of them are logisticians, administrative and finance specialists.

We flew to Aceh on a charter flight, together with some medical supplies. The night before, we traveled non-stop to grab an idea of the extent of damages and the kinds of aid needed in the areas. We also had telephone conference with the relief coordinator through satellite phone. According to the coordinator, what we can do for the time being is to reach the people who live close to the Banda Aceh airport. To a large extent the transportation network of Aceh was badly destroyed. There is no road, no airport, no shoreline. Virtually there is no means of transport for us to get there. Even with a helicopter we can only fly with a limited distance. The actual death toll could be a lot more than what we expected.

MSF is one of the few organisations that can hire helicopters to get to the remote areas and provide relief aid. We work with Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior to carry our medical supplies and staff to assess the damages along the coastal lines. Some areas have been cut off from the outside world since they were hit by the disaster.

We were told by our coordinator during the briefing, "Expect for the worst, it is ok if you want to leave anytime," He even made it very clear to us that working here would be even tougher than searching for survivors after a nuclear explosion. Glancing the satellite picture which shows clearly the vast devastated area, I feel from my heart that what he said is probably true.

Dr Tse graduated from Hong Kong University in 1995 and had been working with a public hospital since the completion of his internship. He worked in an MSF HIV/AIDS treatment programme in Merauke, Indonesia from May 2003 to May 2004. He is now a private practitioner.