Major Michael Scott, a Civil Engineer and CPEng, is Officer Commanding the 1st Field Squadron. His Squadron Group deployed to Indonesia to provide specialist engineer support as part of the Australian Government’s Disaster Relief response to the magnitude 7.5 earthquake experienced off the coast of Western Sumatra on 30 September 2009.
Major Scott deployed with the first elements on 5 October 2009 to establish water treatment plants in Padang, providing water to over 78,000 homes that were affected by significant damage sustained by the city’s main water treatment plant. From the moment the team landed in Padang nothing went to plan. Using a lot of imagination and displaying a desire to succeed, the Sappers coordinated assets from several nations and worked throughout the night to establish the first water point in the vicinity of a rubbish dump.
Over the next two days, the second water treatment plant was established on the side of a busy road in the South of Padang. Both plants operated 24 hours a day for a period of two and a half weeks, producing from sea water nearly 2,000,000L of drinking water until the city’s main water treatment plant was able to recommence operations.
As soon as the Squadron Group’s main body arrived, it set to work on an ambitious set of engineer tasks in the devastated areas around Padang. In a ten day period, where torrential rain was experience on most days, Major Scott’s engineers were able to construct a semi-permanent medical facility, demolish and render safe two schools, construct two classrooms, repair a key bridge and resume the flow of irrigation water to 350 hectares of rice paddies. Even under normal conditions, these tasks would be expected to take several weeks to complete.
All of these tasks were completed in a compressed time and to a very high standard in extremely challenging conditions. Each site provided significant environmental hazards, as they were littered with rubbish, contained decaying plant and animal matter, flowed with polluted water or were covered in ankle deep mud. Through ingenuity, determination and hardwork, Major Scott and the 1st Field Squadron Group were able to ‘Make It So’ for the people of Padang.
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