Team arrives at 'instant city'


Published: Saturday, January 15, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 14, 2005 at 11:37 p.m.
KHAO LAK, Thailand - Day two for the Gainesville team of two doctors, two nurses and a Rotary volunteer started out at Takuapa, the local hospital in Khao Lak. There the Gainesville team met with hospital administrators and local doctors to find out where they could be most helpful.
Khao Lak, the most populated town in Phang Nga Province, is made up of coastal villages, where the income relies mainly on tourism and fishing. Several fishing villages along the coast were completely devastated by the tsunami.
Dr. Kevin Ferguson, an emergency room doctor from Shands at the University of Florida, Dr. Terrence Flotte and nurses Judy Oetter and Loraine Oetter, who are sisters-in-law, visited some of the Pru Tiew and Bang Nieng refugee camps and looked for people who needed medical attention.
They arrived at the Pru Tiew refugee camp, where 200 soldiers from the Royal Thai Army and Air Force have been building temporary shelters for the displaced people. Just eight days ago, ground was broken on a government project to build 240 units that will house about 1,000 families, a daunting task.
"With cooperation from soldiers and local people, the job has gone smoothly," said Major General Kasin Thongkomol, who is coordinating the project. "We are proud to help those who have suffered."
"The soldiers and government were organized to respond," said Ben Campen, response coordinator for Gainesville Rotary. "They had a plan for temporary housing to be built. They have a sense of pride, community and survival."
The Gainesville team brought antibiotics, bandages and MREs (meals ready to eat) to the camp to leave with Montira Chaikwang, a health educator from Takuapa Hospital. The doctors and nurses found the camp's inhabitants, about 60 families, to be healthy and in good shape and decided to move on to Bang Nieng, the largest refugee camp in the area.
The makeshift town holding about 2,000 men women and children, is made up of hundreds of tents, showers, even a playground for the children - an instant city.
"I had positive impressions about the camp. People were fed, the kids had play equipment. They were not sitting around feeling sorry for themselves," said Flotte, chairman of the department of pediatrics at Shands. "The people are doing a good job of taking care of themselves."
After finding a medical tent set up by a team from Japan functioning efficiently, the team decided to try to help with logistics and transport by delivering medical supplies to other camps.
"I am amazed by the creativity and ingenuity of these people," Ferguson said.

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