Emergency Communications

Flood disaster in India - hams provide help

When the torrential rain fell for several days in South India, numerous areas were flooded. Authorities, hundreds of houses submerged, and the death toll was at about 300 and rising.

Gopal Madhavan VU2GMN reported that some areas had 3 to 4 metres of water which meant that all ground floor houses were inundated and owners lost everything. He said the flooding hit an area of more than three million people in Chinnai, with responders from the army, navy, home guards and the national disaster action forces all involved with rescue and relief work. Hundreds of injured people were taken to hospitals.

Gopal VU2GMN said most hams were also isolated in their homes as normal passenger cars could not negotiate the high waters. He also reported that the power supply was cut off in most areas as the electricity distribution systems were under water. The mobile phone and landlines were drastically affected.

Gopal VU2GMN said: "Once it became possible to move, hams started going out assisting with delivery of food and water to stranded individuals, and with rescue from tall buildings where people were trapped." National Coordinator for Disaster Communication in India, Jayu Bhide VU2JAU put out the call for more help with emergency communications. Already a network was on two local VHF repeaters that continued to work well, and the 7.090 MHz frequency was mainly on standby for long distance work.

Jayu VU2JAU explained that traffic being handled including distribution of food, locating missing persons and other information. He said: "The number of hams has increased substantially, a control room has been established to coordinate efforts and more volunteer organisations have swung into action to provide food and water. "Many mobile ham stations are now active to become active in locations not possible earlier." Without recharging power the depletion of hand held transceiver batteries was a problem, but battery powered mobiles were able to help keep communication going.

Hams continued their work that is expected to take several days, while recovery from the disaster is likely to take a number of months. Rail services were diverted to Chennai to carry food and other essential supplies, while the nearby busy international airport was closed for a time disrupting flights, but seems to have returned to near normal. Many industries in the large city were also shut down, along with the state-run Chennai Petroleum oil refinery.

- Jim Linton VK3PC, Chairman, IARU Region 3 Disaster Communications Committee.

Hurricane Patricia - Final

FMRE have advised that the Amateur Radio response to Hurricane Patricia which passed over their country this weekend is now complete and all frequencies are returned to normal use.

The storm downed trees, flooding streets, and buffeted buildings as a category-5 storm, but lost strength in the mountains and was downgraded to a tropical storm. Initially when it made landfall in western Mexico with rain and winds of up to 266km/h, it was one of the strongest ever hurricanes.

The remnants of the storm were also being watched in case they caused flooding in the US state of Texas but this only caused limited damage and no amateur radio activity has been reported from that state yet.

Thanks are expressed for keeping the requested emergency frequencies clear.

Sources: XE2PNA, XE1VP, VK3PC

Hurricane Patricia - Mexico

The strongest ever hurricane recorded in the Americas is heading towards Mexico's Pacific coast causing a state of emergency to be declared in three states in its path. Hurricane Patricia is expected to make landfall on Friday afternoon with winds of 200mph/325kph.

Radio Amateurs in Mexico are already starting operations on 7.060MHz LSB in preparation for the storms arrival and all are encouraged to keep this frequency clear as the situation develops.

UPDATE -  14.120 and 21.120MHz may also be used according to information from FMRE.

Typhoon warning in the Philippines

Authorities are concerned about the effects of Typhoon Koppu that may last three days, as the weather system is trapped in its movement by another typhoon.

So far it's a wait and see matter, but the Philippine Amateur Radio Association (PARA) has activated its HERO (Ham Emergency Radio Operations) Network DX1PAR is monitoring 7.095 MHz.

Joho DU1VHY said the HERO Network has also been set up at the request of the National Telecommunication Commission's Deputy Commissioner.

HERO traffic so far only has one significant report from the province of Aurora where there is an increase in rain and wind velocity.

Typhoon Koppu is expected to track upwards through the centre of Luzon Island. It made landfall early on Sunday and is not expected to leave the archipelago until Tuesday.

The weather forecast is for there to be heavy to intense rainfall and possible storm surges in coastal areas. Due to its interaction with the nearby Typhoon Champi, it may move slowly across the northern end of Luzon, and be almost stationary once it hits.

-Jim Linton VK3PC, Chairman IARU Region 3 Disaster Communications Committee.

Italy-Malta Co-operation in Emergency Communications

Following their successful involvement in an Earthquake simulation exercise in September Maltese Radio Amateurs were invited to take part in a second phase of the exercise on the Italian island of Lampedusa between 28th September and 1st October.

The team was very limited in the mass of equipment they could take with them and had about 100 kg of equipment including radios, power supplies , antennas/dish, coax , masts , tools , laptop excluding personal belongings in a backpack. Using this they were able to maintain contact between Malta and Lampedusa on 40m whereas signals on VHF/UHF and microwave were unstable even with yagis on both sides. Malta had an Amateur Radio caravan located at Dingli which had a clear take off to Lampedusa. The caravan is equipped from hf to microwave and had radio contact with the Maltese Civil Protection base of operation where messages were relayed to.

To avoid problems all exercise emails were passed from Lampedusa to Malta via fldigi and flmsg and emails would then originated from Malta with replies being passed back the same way. They also passed test messages to other amateurs who were willing to pass email messages on their behalf.

'Real world' problems included a 1 hour scheduled power cut at Lampedusa which the team were unaware of so they had to resort to borrowing a car battery to power up the base station for more than an hour as their other batteries were being used by the portable station at the site of the exercise. Mobile phone connections at Lampedusa were unstable but this just added to the realism of the exercise.   

The Maltese team operated with 2 persons per site in 12 hour shifts for the duration of the exercise which was again supported by the European Union.