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Germany

Helping Aceh Connect Again

Aceh faces a lack of aid, but also information. With many radio stations destroyed in the tsunami disaster, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle is helping reconstruction and collecting radios for Aceh's citizens.

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Cut off from the rest of the world

Ever since the first reports of the widespread devastation in Indonesia's Aceh province started trickling in, members of Deutsche Welle's (DW) Indonesian editorial team have been working round the clock, reporting exhaustively on the situation in the crisis regions in south and southeast Asia and particularly in Indonesia in daily radio programs.

But contacting local journalists and editors in Aceh has proved a tough task for the Indonesian journalists at DW's headquarters in Bonn, Germany.

DW has been working in Aceh with eight rebroadcasting stations in the cities of Banda Aceh and Meulaboh for several years now. And there's been no sign of life from most of them ever since the disaster struck, giving rise to fears that they could have been destroyed in the tidal waves.

Vital information missing

Indonesien nach der Flut

Acehnese people walk past a destroyed market building in Banda Aceh

Aceh in northern Sumatra, which was closest to the epicenter of the underwater quake which triggered a tsunami in the Indian Ocean on Dec. 26, 2004, has been the worst-hit region. Media reports of chaotic scenes and untold destruction on the island province have been unfolding over the past few days. Entire streets and towns have been erased from the map.

Some of the televised images show collapsed transmitting aerials on the beach. The break-down of communication networks in the worst-hit regions of Aceh have cut off entire towns from the outside world, posing a further strain on traumatized flood victims.

With no way of informing themselves about the catastrophe, many survivors are unaware of the staggering dimensions of the disaster they're caught in. Most have no idea what kind of relief measures are underway and who they can turn to in their anguish. In addition, the survivors have no information on how they can protect themselves from illness and epidemics.

Taking stock

It's against this turbulent background that DW wants to participate in reconstructing the battered rebroadcasting radio stations in Aceh.

Bildgalerie Hilfsaktion in Südasien Banda Aceh

Homeless Acehnese people wait aboard a ship in the port of Banda Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia.

One of DW's partner stations from Jakarta has already sent a fact-finding team to Aceh to investigate what is needed to set up at least one or two radio stations and have them up and running as soon as possible. A DW journalist from the Indonesian team has also left for the region to get a clearer picture of the situation on the ground.

At the same time, DW is collecting simple battery-operated radios and is planning to dispatch them as quickly as possible along with other relief supplies to the crisis region so that survivors of the tragedy can at least stay in contact with the rest of the world.

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