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Emirates Supports Sri Lanka Emergency Team

A multi-national, volunteer group of
experts in airport cargo operations is playing a critical role in the flow
of international aid to hundreds of thousands of tsunami victims in Sri
Lanka, in possibly the largest emergency logistics operation ever mounted on
the island.Supported by Emirates Airline, Dnata and five other companies, the
Dubai-based Airport Emergency Team (AET) of the Disaster Resource Network
(DRN) was deployed at Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport for the
first time since the AET’s establishment, just three days after the country
was ravaged by the tsunamis of 26th December.

Its mandate is to help manage all humanitarian cargo arriving on charter
flights into the country, enabling a quick turnaround of aircraft, and the
efficient dispatch of relief goods to the affected areas.


The Airport Emergency Team has been set up under the patronage of Emirates’
Chairman HH Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum and is made up of
representatives from seven participating organisations: Emirates, Dnata,
DHL, TNT, Aramex, Chapman Freeborn and Dubai Aid City.



The AET’s nine-member group in Sri Lanka is headed by Chris Weeks of DHL, as
Director Europe, Middle East and Africa for the Disaster Resource Network,
and Team Leader David Ambridge of Dnata Cargo. As a co-sponsor of the team,
Emirates has contributed eight staff members from across the Emirates Group,
who have been or will be in Colombo to support the coordination of the
relief efforts.


Stemming from the experience of two volunteers who assisted in disaster
recovery after earthquakes in Iran and Morocco, the Airport Emergency Team’s
mission is to provide assistance across country borders to overloaded
airports in times of crisis.


In total, about 40 volunteers from the seven participating organisations are
involved in setting up and running the initiative. These volunteers work in
rotation at airports needing assistance, providing 24 hour support and
leaving the existing cargo handling infrastructure free to carry out its
routine work.


In Colombo, its first operational deployment, the AET has taken delivery of
nearly 800 tons of cargo flown in from many countries to Sri Lanka,
operating out of a 6000 square-meter cargo terminal still under
construction. The cargo included large consignments of
government-to-government assistance as well as consignments from
non-governmental organisations, aid agencies and individual donors. As
charter flights continue to arrive, the volume of humanitarian assistance is
expected to increase.


Director Chris Weeks said: “We have received excellent cooperation from the
airport authorities. They have provided us with a building, which though
incomplete is adequate for our purposes, as well as forklift trucks,
telephone, electricity and other facilities.”


He said the dispatch of family tents to Jaffna and Trincomalee had
commenced, using Indian Air Force MI8 helicopters and Sri Lanka Air Force
AN32 aircraft. “We are looking for more aircraft to distribute the
humanitarian assistance because of the congestion on the road network,” he


Team Leader David Ambridge added: “This is the first time that our Airport
Emergency Team has been activated, and its usefulness - and timeliness of
its creation - has just been abundantly demonstrated. The AET also is
enabling each one of us to make a contribution, and to make a difference in
the lives of many of the tsunami survivors.”   


In addition to its support for the Airport Emergency Team, Emirates has
transported food, medicines and clothes totalling 10 tonnes from the
Emirates Group, 1000 tents from a Sri Lankan donor, and relief and medical
supplies from Gothenburg to Colombo, commissioned by the Sri Lankan embassy
in Sweden.