HAMNET Report 24 June 2018

In Lake Toba, North Sumatra, the ferry, Sinar Bangun, overloaded with over 200 passengers, sank on 18th June. It was apparently over five times over the passenger capacity of 43 passengers and had only 45 life jackets. It is holiday season in Indonesia, so the demand for space was very great. Winds were blowing hard, and waves were rough, while heavy rain made conditions worse. All in all, a recipe for disaster, and finally the ferry capsized completely, leaving 3 confirmed dead, some 190 persons missing, and only 18 survivors rescued.

An absolutely avoidable tragedy, were it not for the impatience of the local people, who could not or would not wait for another vessel. The agony for the surviving relatives cannot be imagined. Our sincere condolences to the nations involved.

The American local press has again been full of the ARRL Field Day Event across their country and coming to an end today. The Sun has been playing ball, just a little bit, with sunspot numbers daily in the 40’s, the Solar Flux Index being in mid 80’s, and a low K index contributing to reasonable communications in the latter half of last week. There will be many post-mortems on the video and audio blogs this coming week, so I hope to be able to report on their exercise successes next Sunday.

Southgate Amateur Radio News carries an insert this week on an example of amateur radio filling the gaps in urban or national disaster management.

“The Indian Express newspaper reports on the invisible warriors who battle Mumbai monsoons – Radio Amateurs.

“The forces on the frontlines of Mumbai’s monsoon crisis-management have a set of images that define their functions. The fire brigade invariably rescues youngsters stranded out in the sea at Bandra Fort, employees of the BMC clear out fallen trees, guard open manholes and disinfect mosquito breeding spots, hospitals witness queues of patients with water-borne diseases, the police are seen standing in waist-high water diverting traffic and the National Disaster Response Force frantically remove rubble from collapsed buildings, working to save lives.

“All the while, there is no such picture to define the importance of a band of ‘invisible’ volunteers who pull the strings from the sidelines and ensure that lines of communications between the agencies never break down. For close to half a decade, Ham or amateur radio operators have worked side by side with the BMC during monsoons. While they are kept on standby by the civic body in case a disaster or torrential rain knocks down electricity and phone services, the amateur radio operators also perform a vital function by relaying information from all corners of the city on days with forecasts of rough weather.

“ ‘This is a technical hobby and our expertise is special, which common people do not have. During a disaster, communications are very important,’ says Grant Road resident and Ham operator, Sudhir Shah VU2SVS..

“The 71-year-old usually oversees operations from the BMC’s Disaster Management Control Room, which has its own transceiver, directing his colleagues on the field in other parts of the city. While phones and hotlines ring off the hook inside the control room and bring information from all corners of the city, Shah’s messages have a far greater reach. ‘This is a secondary channel of communication. We are highly mobile and independent. We are a voluntary service and use our own equipment and are always on standby,’ he adds.” Close quotation

Thank you to the Indian Express for this report.

From Tokyo comes a good idea. The Mainichi, Japan’s National Daily, remarks on the fact that “Tourists can be especially vulnerable during a natural disaster, unable to speak the local language and unsure of what to do or where to go in an emergency. With that in mind, the Japan Tourism Agency has an iOS and Android app called ‘Safety tips’ to help foreign visitors navigate emergency situations such as the June 18 quake in western Japan’s Osaka Prefecture.

“Downloadable from the Apple App Store and Google Play, ‘Safety tips’ uses location services and push notifications to relay earthquake, tsunami, volcano and weather warnings to affected users. Available in Japanese, English, Korean, and both simplified and traditional Chinese, the app also provides evacuation information and multilingual communication cards to allow users to ask locals for essential information, such as ‘Is it safe here?’ and ‘Where is the emergency shelter?’

“However, the app is also designed to help foreign travellers overcome more commonplace problems while in Japan, with a list of emergency service numbers, a guide to local medical institutions in case of illness or injury, heatstroke warnings, and even a train route finder function.

“As the Safety tip app website notes, ‘Japan is a country which is prone to natural disasters,’ and tourists need ‘accurate information in the event of a natural disaster.’ That need has been growing as more visitors are arriving on Japan’s shores than ever before. In 2014, the year the app was launched, the country welcomed just over 13.4 million foreign visitors. That rose to about 28.7 million in 2017, and arrivals were increasing at their fastest pace ever in the first four months of this year, according to Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO) statistics.” Close quotation.

Well done, Japan!

At 7pm last night, our national telecoms agency killed my normal email address, telephone line and username again, and I am seriously considering not invoking their services again. The pathetic and confused service does not merit my support. Please note that my email address changes to zs1dfr@gmail.com until further notice.

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