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Australian engineers hand over safe water.



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Media contacts Sascha Meldrum (Senator Hill) 08 8237 7920 0409 034 241

Defence Media Liaison 02 6265 3343 0408 498 664

www.defence.gov.au

MEDIA RELEASE SENATOR THE HON ROBERT HILL Minister for Defence Leader of the Government in the Senate

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Tuesday, 8 February 2004 22/2004

AUSTRALIAN ENGINEERS HAND OVER SAFE WATER

Defence Minister Senator Robert Hill has praised the work of Australian Defence Force engineers, who today handed over Banda Aceh’s main water distribution point to the International Federation of the Red Cross.

Senator Hill said the engineers have produced enough safe drinking and washing water to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

“Australian engineers have been working around the clock to produce safe water for distribution to Banda Aceh residents while the town’s main supply was repaired and decontaminated,” Senator Hill said.

At the height of safe water shortages, more than 650 people queued and received water over each two-hour distribution window, twice daily. While the need for water has reduced somewhat, an average of 500 people are still receiving water twice daily.

Lieutenant Colonel Ian Cumming, Commanding Officer of the Australian engineers, said the handover was a significant event for the engineers.

“These guys have put a huge amount of work into this facility and early on, it became a sort of symbol of the aid effort here in Banda Aceh,” LTCOL Cumming said.

“We’ve now reached a logical point for transfer of the task to a civilian aid agency and the Red Cross is well-placed to take on that role.”

IFRC says it is important to maintain the facility and ensure a smooth transition from ADF engineers to Red Cross workers with no disruption to the water distribution schedule.

“We will maintain the distribution at the bridge but we will increase the distribution at the pumping station to include some 1000 people more,” said the IFRC’s Thanh Le.

As foreign military support to the international aid effort is reduced, government and civilian aid agencies are increasingly assuming aid distribution roles under guidance from Indonesian authorities.