Tuesday 11 January 2005

It's Not Rocket Science, Just Logistics

Cross-posted from The Command Post :
From the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :
Authorities in Indonesia now believe as many as 130,000 people were killed in the Boxing Day tsunamis.

More than 2,500 bodies are now being recovered daily from the wreckage of what remains of the worst devastated area of Banda Aceh.

More than 30,000 bodies have been pulled out so far.

Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare, Alwi Shihab, has announced that between 80,000 and 130,000 people are thought to have died in the country's Aceh province.

A true figure may never be known.

Mr Shihab says as many as 450,000 other people have also become refugees in their own country.

They are officially known as internally displaced persons.

Meanwhile, a convoy of trucks has set out from the Indonesian capital Jakarta for a 2,500-kilometre overland trip to the northern tip of Sumatra.

The area was one of the worst hit by the tsunami and tens of thousands of survivors are still in desperate need of help.

Bill Hyde from the International Organisation for Migration, which is organising the aid convoy, says the airport facilities in Banda Aceh cannot cope with the load.

"The volume of international relief aid that's come into Jakarta has simply overwhelmed the air coordinator," he said.

"The number of flights that are flying up to Banda Aceh and the region are more than the airports can handle at any time.

"So as the aids [are] backing up and the need there's great, we had to include overland convoys as well.
See Op-Ed page for technical analyses of why the death toll may never be known, the bottlenecks in reticulating aid, and an in-depth analysis of Banda Aceh airport capability.

It doesn't take a Rocket Scientist to figure out this stuff. Readers of this Blog will already have seen some of the contents of the analysis articles on TCP. All of this has been entirely predictable, and you've read about it before the newspapers report it.

There was even a module in the TAIL model design only half-jokingly referred to as the "Water Buffalo On Runway" module. It caused random and unpredictable flight delays, and modelled anything from the aforementioned Water Buffalo through to fuel spills, ATC (Air Traffic Control) Radar breakdown, and a whole host of other things, all of which caused flights to delay takeoff and landing. It didn't temporarily close the runway though (and the next version should have that, if it ever gets financed). We'll also need a "visiting dignitary" module that will close the whole airfield down for a few hours a couple of days after scenario start, to simulate visits by Prime Ministers, UN Bureaucrats etc. Something we should have thought of, but didn't. All of these should be "tweakable" by changing values for chance and delay coefficients in tables.

The Water Buffalo was predicted: but not the aircraft actually hitting it. Still, the stochastic "attrition" (breakdown/crash) module would have done much the same thing. Flog helicopters and personnel hard enough, long enough, and some will break, even with the best maintenance and pilots. Some scenarios include the possibility of being fired at too, which complicates things a bit.

Meanwhile, I applaud Bill Hyde's efforts. The roads are fairly awful, and no heavy vehicle (eg 10-tonne trucks) can use them. Assuming he manages to gather together a whopping convoy of 100(!) 2.5 tonne 6-wheel-drive trucks (or the equivalent), which end-to-end on the road would be at least 2 kilometres long (!), and assuming the roads are good enough so they can take maximum loads, then he could deliver... 250 tonnes. About the same as 10 C-130 flights, maybe half of what's arriving every day. That's after a few days of travel, assuming no breakdowns, and assuming the roads don't give way under the long procession of relatively heavy vehicles (not 4WDs or SUVs) using them. He'll also need extra vehicles carrying provisions, breakdown gear, some traffic co-ordinators to ensure bridges are safe, changes of drivers etc.

I'd be surprised if he gets more than 50 tonnes through. But it all helps, and doesn't consume resources in short supply.

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