One organization that has first hand knowledge of the devastation wrought by the Southeast Asia tsunami is the Salvation Army. They not only are heavily involved in the relief effort but also have personnel directly impacted.
"We have been deeply involved with many of those countries for many years. We have offices, schools, shelters and other facilities as well as many personnel there that felt the brunt of this disaster," said Major Lawrence "Tony" Barrington, corp officer, Alexandria Citadel Corp, The Salvation Army.
"Fortunately all our personnel have survived. But, many lost all their possessions," he said.
One such case was conveyed to Lt. Col. Don Faulker, field secretary for personnel, who contacted Lou S. Brandon, a former employee of the Army's area headquarters now serving as Territorial Finance Secretary in Sri Lanka.
"We had officers (Salvation Army) all along the coast. Most lost everything, but God spared their lives. We have been unable to evaluate our properties as of yet. There is too much confusion," Brandon wrote.
"One officer lost several members of his family. He just buried his wife three months ago .... Most deaths here appear to be children. Sunday morning the sea was doing amazing things. The children were in awe. They called their mothers and fathers to watch. Then the waves came and everyone was gone," Brandon said in his letter.
"THE CITY OF GALLE is a ghost town. Sunday morning trains were full of travelers, the bus stand was full of people waiting for their transport and the open air market was crowded as usual. All gone. The trains floating out to sea, the buses full of people floating out to sea," he reported.
Brandon said that he had tried to get a room in a certain hotel in Hikkadewa where he normally stayed when on vacation. However, it was full for the holiday. He had the opportunity to stay in a beach front hotel but decided it would be "too busy" and not quiet enough for him.
"So I declined. That hotel is gone, it collapsed and washed into the sea. Many tourists died there. By the grace of God, there go I. It could have been me," Brandon stated.
He also reported, "Our Dewheila Girls Home and Eventide has a fishing boat sitting in its yard. We have 40 girls there and 30 senior ladies. Most of the girls had gone home for Christmas and the rest were attending services here at THQ. No one was hurt. The waves lifted this big fishing boat ... over the railway track and over our six foot plus retaining wall and set it right down."
IN A COMMUNICATION dated Dec. 29 from Salvation Army Southern Territorial Headquarters it was stated, "Immediate and urgent need at the disaster sites, including Aceh and Nias Island, is for body bags, medical masks, sanitary gloves, hand sanitizers and disinfectants."
"The country's 14 Salvation Army relief teams are actively involved in North Sumatra and neighboring areas .... Salvation Army personnel are working around-the-clock to provide practical care for their hurting neighbors." All Salvation Army efforts are being coordinated by its International Headquarters in London, England, according to Barrington.
"Locally we would suggest people make monetary donations. Due to the extent and nature of this tragedy, it's easier to ship great bulks of material through the military than try to assemble and pack donated items on a local basis," Barrington said.
"All monetary donations will be sent to the International Headquarters. And 100 percent of the money donated will go to help the victims of the tsunami. None will be used for administration," Barrington said.
As to whether or not any local personnel will be deployed to the disaster area depends on how long the relief effort is underway, according to Barrington. "A shortage of officers and soldiers is not something we suffer from in that part of the world," he said.