REPORT 20 November 2016

We received the following about New Zealand’s earthquakes last weekend from Greg, G0DUB IARU Region 1 Emergency Communications Co-Ordinator:

“A strong 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck the South Island of New Zealand at 1103UTC 13 November ( just after Midnight local time ) causing damage and local tsunami alerts, mainly for the East coast of the country. The local emergency communications group AREC, part of NZART, are believed to have been operating on their normal frequency of 3.900MHz USB. Initial media reports are of property damage over a wide area but the situation will not become clear until daybreak and the end of the possible Tsunami threat. Radio Amateurs in the area with allocations around 3.900 MHz are encouraged to listen carefully and avoid QRM to any ongoing work by AREC”.

And in another report, this one from Amateur Radio Newsline’s Jim Meachen, I quote:

“Thousands of people have been left stranded on a devastated landscape in New Zealand which was shattered by (another) 7.8-magnitude earthquake on Monday the 14th of November. With a state of emergency declared in the Canterbury region, hardest hit by the quake, emergency response has included an international array of naval vessels. Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee told the New Zealand Herald that offers of help were accepted from the United States, Australia, Canada, Japan and Singapore. The fleet of rescue ships includes the first United States warship to visit New Zealand in 33 years.

“While there was no formal activation of Amateur Radio Emergency Communications (AREC), hams in the public service arm of the New Zealand Association of Radio Transmitters remained vigilant in monitoring traffic on the bands as officials continued to assess the massive damage to roads and buildings.

“The quake, which caused extensive damage in Kaikoura and Culverden, killed at least two persons.

“One local ham, Ken Duffy ZL4KD, told Amateur Radio Newsline in an email that he activated the local Christchurch repeater to listen for emergency and damage reports shortly after the first quake struck. He remained on the air through the series of aftershocks that occurred. Ken wrote that the affected area included a large rural region with few active hams, but the damage was significant.

“Ken said AREC could not gain access to many of the affected areas because of the severity of the road damage. As Amateur Radio Newsline went to production, hams continued to monitor frequencies while they awaited word from government agencies on their offer to step in during the rescue effort”. End quote.

In my own observation of the Global Disaster website, I note that at least 50 aftershocks with magnitude greater than 4.5 were measured between Sunday lunchtime and Thursday of this week, so the tectonic plates have not settled down there yet.

And here, in our corner of the world, Mozambique was hit by a magnitude 4.6 earthquake yesterday (Saturday) morning at 05h31 our time. The shock occurred at a depth of 10km in an area populated by 495000 people within 100km of the epicentre, about half way between the port of Beira and the lowest tip of Malawi. The potential for major damage and loss of life is not very great, and by yesterday afternoon, few reports of damage had been received. Let’s hope the situation doesn’t get worse.

In the Western Cape, Regional Director Grant Southey ZS1GS is continuing his campaign to reinvigorate the HAMNET members who commonly assist during rescue operations managed by Wilderness Search and Rescue in the greater Peninsula, as well as those who have developed inertia, and not responded to invitations to attend meetings or help when asked to do so. Grant is planning a “think-tank meeting” at the beginning of next year to plan strategies for the coming year.

HAMNET’s sole reason for existing is to be of assistance to our fellow South Africans, when communications help is asked for. The reason we have radios is to try and make contact with others, and yet most of our radios stand unused and cold. One of the truths of modern society is that the easiest activity to pursue is the entertainment or information gleaned from one’s cell phone or computer internet connection. Trolling the web looking for things to amuse one is easy and doesn’t require much thinking, and so we tend to lapse into a state where the only exercise we get, mental or physical, is in the use of the remote, or the mouse!

Amateur radio suffers as a result, because we couldn’t be bothered to plan that new antenna system, or try calling CQ on the bands, or use that fancy dual band cross-band-repeat high power VHF/UHF mobile radio in the double cab or 4×4 vehicle we have that could be put to immense use helping someone in trouble, or assisting at a sporting venue or community activity. The good feeling one gets out of doing something for someone else, and not asking for reward or favour, is the greatest.

And even though the solar flux figures are poor, VHF and higher frequencies still work perfectly, so there’s no reason to ignore all those expensive rigs you’ve installed at home and in your vehicle. I’m sure all HAMNET directors would join Grant in appealing to new as well as long-standing radio amateurs, to consider coming forward to help, and recover the enthusiasm they had when they first received their call-signs. The holiday season will bring its share of victims needing rescuing, and the new year has lots of sporting events occurring early in the year, so we look forward to having you join in. Thank you very much.

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.