The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) was called into action to respond to the devastating Asian Tsunami Disaster which struck 12 Asian coastlines on Sunday, 26 December 2004. The giant waves were inflicted by a strong earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Richter Scale which jolted the western coast of Northern Sumatra in the morning that day.
Killing over hundreds of thousands of people and destroying the homelands of many others in over 10 nations, the aftermath left a state of destruction of the level the world had not seen in several South Asian and Southeast Asian countries, including India, Indonesia and Thailand.
As the extent of the disaster became clear, the SCDF quickly despatched two contingents of 23 officers each to Aceh, Indonesia and Khao Lak, Thailand, to assist in the search and rescue efforts in these tsunami-hit areas. Additional reinforcement and replacement contingents were also sent in the days that followed.
The two-week operation was the SCDF’s largest ever overseas mission which saw over 130 SCDF personnel, including four CD Operationally Ready National Servicemen, deployed in humanitarian efforts alongside other agencies, such as, the Singapore Armed Forces. It was also the first mission where two teams were sent overseas simultaneously.
Apart from the 130-men contingent, another two SCDF paramedics were attached to the SAF Medical Unit at Aceh to render medical assistance while three senior officers attached to the UNDAC team at Aceh and Jakarta assisted in the damage assessment and coordination of international rescue efforts.
In addition to conducting search and rescue operations, the contingents also opened their hearts and offered other humanitarian aids within their means, for example, the contingents’ medical officers had offered basic medical care to the locals at sites where medical facilities were either destroyed or unavailable.
At the end of the operation, the SCDF contingent helped to recover a total of 93 bodies in Aceh, Indonesia.