The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami caused catastrophic damage to many cities on the rim of the Indian Ocean. Banda Aceh in Sumatra, Indonesia was particularly badly hit due to its close proximity to the epicenter. The Singapore Armed Forces Medical Team was one of the earliest medical teams to arrive in Banda Aceh, providing primary health care to the survivors. In the first 17 days of its operation, more than 2000 injured and sick were seen by the Medical Team at 2 locations within Banda Aceh. Approximately one-third of the patients suffered from infected superficial wounds on their limbs and faces. Many developed deep-seated necrosis of the skin tissue, requiring repeated wound dressing and debridement. Another one-third suffered from respiratory tract infection, some due to aspiration of sea water. There were relatively few major trauma and fracture cases seen, and there were a few cases of compression barotrauma of the tympanic membranes resulting from underwater immersion in the sea water. The casualty patterns seem consistent with those reported in other tsunami disasters, which differ distinctly from those seen in a pure earthquake disaster.
Earthquakes and tsunamis can cause massive destruction over large areas, affecting the lives of many in areas hit by such disasters. The local health care system often gets disrupted and the health and well-being of the survivors may depend on disaster relief organisations from within the country as well as from foreign sources.
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