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Floating warehouse, Greenpeace ship aid Indonesia's isolated tsunami victims
BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (AFP) Jan 31, 2005
A floating warehouse and the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior are among the more unusual ways relief workers are reaching isolated tsunami survivors on the west coast of Indonesia's Aceh.

The 3,000-tonne floating warehouse dropped anchor off the key west coast town of Meulaboh on January 20 and is to begin supplying landing craft within three days, Heather Hill, a spokeswoman for the UN's World Food Program, told AFP Sunday.

WFP's landing craft will carry 400 tonnes of food aid from the offshore warehouse to an isolated community along the coast, and then return to the floating storehouse to fill up for further missions along the coast, Hill said.

The shuttle will allow far greater quantities of aid to be placed ashore than can be delivered by helicopter to the area, much of which remains inaccessible by road more than a month after the disaster, she said.

"It will allow us to put large quantities of food into these remote areas," she told AFP.

The aid shuttle will operate for several days until the warehouse is empty. She said it would then load up in Jakarta before returning for another mission off Meulaboh, the beachfront town pulverized by the December 26 earthquake and tsunami that left about 230,000 people missing or dead in the Aceh region.

She said the first WFP landing craft mission took place about one week ago when a vessel delivered 400 tonnes of aid from Jakarta to Calang, another west coast community hit hard by the disaster.

Action Contre La Faim, one of the many non-governmental organizations assisting survivors of the disaster, will distribute the aid in Calang, she said.

The largest relief organization working in Aceh, WFP is in charge of obtaining food and arranging its delivery.

Once goods are on the ground, WFP's partner agencies including Action Contre La Faim, Mercy Corps, Save The Children and Catholic Relief Services distribute it directly to the needy, said Inigo Alvarez, another WFP spokesman.

The WFP is now feeding more than 330,000 people but has a target of reaching more than 500,000 by February, Hill said.

She said the floating warehouse and landing craft missions would continue until WFP was able to use more economical road transport. Military engineers have already repaired some of the 173 west coast bridges damaged during the disaster.

A second WFP landing craft was on its way Sunday to Malaysia where it would load about 400 tonnes of vegetable oil, Alvarez said.

While landing craft help get rice, noodles, fortified biscuits, vegetable oil and canned fish to the most remote areas, WFP ships are reaching more accessible destinations.

Greenpeace also donated its Rainbow Warrior, traditionally used for anti-nuclear protests and other environmental causes, for use by WFP and other non-governmental organizations and UN agencies, Hill said.

Rainbow Warrior reached the west coast community of Lam No with 70 tonnes of WFP food aid on Thursday, she said.

"It shows how global is the response to this crisis," Alvarez said.

WFP, which relies on both government and corporate donations to fund its missions, received major support from the TNT transportation company which has provided trucks, a helicopter and seconded personnel, he said.

One vessel chartered by WFP is stationed off the island port of Sabang, north of the capital Banda Aceh, strictly to house a multinational crew of about 65 pilots and aircraft maintenance men working on WFP's seven helicopters, he said.

The agency has leased more than 150 trucks and several fixed-wing aircraft.

WFP is also providing relief to other countries struck by the tsunami. In Sri Lanka, where a smaller number of people died than in Indonesia, WFP is feeding about 750,000 people, Alvarez said.

He describes the tsunami as "one of the most complex" emergencies WFP has ever dealt with. But the number of needy in Indonesia still pales compared with the 1.5 million WFP is assisting in Darfur, Sudan.

Alvarez said the agency would assess after six months whether the Aceh mission would continue, but he suspected it would.

"People, they will still need our help for a long time," he said.

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