Fabian Tritschler is nervous. A plane load of tents for the survivors of the Sumatra quake is due in at 5.30, but he and the Caritas team have been up all night sorting out landing permission.
Five in the morning at the Padang Airport Cargo Terminal. The pink clouds in the sky will later be replaced by a sweltering hot sun. It is silent and cool here now, but it will turn hectic when the sun comes up.
Two Singapore Air Force Hercules planes land within minutes of each other, forklifts and cargo transporters go into action, while an international logistics team coordinates the incoming aid. Australian Defence Force troops have set up their camp directly in the hangar. It is ten days after the earthquake and the humanitarian operation is in full gear.
The Caritas team is at the airport this morning. At 5:30am a plane from Lahore, Pakistan should be landing, bringing along 660 family tents for survivors of the quake. The flight is delayed. Caritas Humanitarian Officer Fabian Tritschler runs back and forth between air strip and tower to check the new scheduled landing time. He says, “It just has to work out today.”
There were problems with the landing permission. Numerous phone calls were made between Padang, Germany, and Pakistan. Nobody really had any sleep during the night. Yudha, an Indonesian staff member, tries to get a few minutes rest, despite the noise, leaning on an aid delivery with some noodle soup. Someone is arranging lukewarm ice coffee out of a can.
There was intensive preparation prior to this day. Caritas teams visited different villages to examine the degree of damage. Each individual family’s need was recorded. For example, which house is really damaged and which village was already promised aid. Fabian Tritschler goes through these lists again. His colleague Michael Mueller explains the agenda to the truck drivers in fluent Indonesian one more time.
At 8:35am the sound of planes can be heard, as the cargo transporters from Pakistan arrive. Finally! Customs formalities and papers are finished surprisingly quickly, and everything works out well. An airlifter brings the tent packages to the trucks which are ready to leave.
The airport workers have now also arrived. One of these tents weighs about 55 kilograms. In the hot sun, the workers transport all of these tents one by one to the trucks. The Caritas aid workers also help impatiently. No one thought about wearing gloves, but the excitement that the tents are finally here helps the workers forget about any pain.