Search and Rescue
Staying Cool While Saving Lives
Source: U.S. Navy
Many countries were quick to respond to the disaster. The United States Pacific Command dispatched the 7th fleet, based at Japan, to take part in a survey operation in the area. A total of 15,000 military personnel, 20 warships and 90 aircraft were sent by the Pentagon to help affected countries, at a cost of another US$6 million a day. Some countries sent military and medical personnel to affected areas. Others provided military equipment to facilitate the search and rescue operations.
The tsunami brought about the devastation of transport and communication infrastructure. Roads were destroyed, blocking off access via land to some affected areas. Thus, aerial and sea military transports were required to reach some rural areas. Helicopters are especially effective in the search and rescue operations. They do not require landing runways, and they provide a good view for rescuers. Thus, rescuers are able to spot injured survivors, and evacuate them to safety.
The force of the tsunami has altered the landscape of coastal areas, rendering most conventional topological maps useless. Therefore, ships with radar capabilities play supporting roles by coordinating the operations, and carrying out surveillance work.
Helping The Less Fortunate
Source: U.S. Navy
Animals, such as dogs and elephants, proved their worth in the search and rescue operations. Dogs, such as the "German hovawart" are specially trained for the grim task of searching for bodies amidst the debris.
The army's dog training project was inspired by current king of Thailand, who had suggested that stray dogs are caught and trained for specific purposes. This is the first time the dogs have been used for these purposes. Otherwise, they are generally used to sniff out the presence of drugs or bombs.
The dogs are joined by a group of elephants, which have proved to be particularly successful in the search and rescue operations. In waterlogged areas, where modern equipment face problems of accessibility, dogs detect the scent of a dead body, before the elephants lift heavy debris, which may stack several stories high. Rescuers are then able to retrieve the body.
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