5 deadly natural disasters: How S’pore helped

The SCDF's Lionheart contingent in Kahramanmaras, Turkey, on Feb 10. The team was there to help with rescue operations after a massive earthquake. PHOTO: SCDF

SINGAPORE – A 68-member Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) team helped with rescue operations in Turkey after a massive earthquake on Feb 6. The Straits Times looks at how Singapore has helped in five of the worst natural disasters in the past 20 years.

1. 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami

SAF combat engineers helping to stack sandbags in Aceh, following the Boxing Day Tsunami. PHOTO: MINDEF

On Boxing Day in 2004, one of the largest earthquakes recorded struck off the coast of Indonesia, triggering a tsunami across the Indian Ocean and killing around 230,000 people.

Giant waves caused by the 9.1-magnitude quake wreaked havoc on the coastal areas of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and nine other countries.

Members of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and SCDF were dispatched and more than 1,200 SAF personnel were sent to Aceh, Indonesia, where about half of the fatalities occurred.

Singapore’s forensic scientists and pathologists identified missing Singaporeans among thousands of bodies in Phuket.

Millions of dollars was also donated from Singapore.

2. 2005 Hurricane Katrina

An RSAF crew member looking out over a flooded area in the southern US following the devastation brought on by Hurricane Katrina. PHOTO: MINDEF

Hurricane Katrina in the United States remains the costliest disaster in the global insurance industry, causing US$125 billion in damage and over US$60 billion in insured losses.

The disaster in late August 2005 killed more than 1,800 people and flooded 80 per cent of New Orleans with a storm surge of up to 8m.

The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) sent its Chinook helicopters based in Texas to airlift hundreds of people to safety, drop food supplies and dam up broken flood barriers.

3. 2008 Sichuan earthquake

SCDF rescuers recovering the body of a victim from the debris of a collapsed five-storey building in Sichuan province, China, on May 21, 2008. PHOTO: ST FILE

A 7.9-magnitude quake that devastated Sichuan on May 12, 2008, was the largest seismic event in China in more than half a century.

About five million were left homeless, with nearly 70,000 dead, 18,000 missing and 375,000 injured.

The SAF sent two aircraft to carry humanitarian aid and supplies and 55 personnel from SCDF’s Lionheart Contingent to help the local authorities in search-and-rescue efforts.

4. 2015 Nepal earthquake

SCDF officers looking for survivors at a collapsed building in Lalitpur, Nepal, on April 30, 2015. PHOTO: ST FILE

A 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Nepal on April 25, 2015, the strongest to hit the mountainous state in more than 80 years, killing nearly 9,000 people.

Three RSAF aircraft carried contingents from the SAF, SCDF and the police to aid in medical treatment and search-and-rescue operations.

The planes made 11 flights into Nepal to transport people, equipment and relief supplies and evacuated 71 Singaporeans from the Himalayan state.

Donations from the Singapore Government and people in Singapore helped rebuild schools and community halls.

5. 2019-2020 Australia bushfires

At the end of Australia’s hottest and driest year on record in 2019, bushfires ravaged over 11 million ha of land, decimated one billion animals and killed 33 people.

In January 2020, Singapore sent two Chinook helicopters and 71 RSAF personnel to fight the blaze. The helicopters transported more than 260 people and ferried close to 73,000kg of supplies.

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