Hot Off The Press 

Chicago, Illinois -- January 29, 1999


Amateur Radio nets activated in short order on 20 and 40 meters following an earthquake January 25 in West Central Colombia. The quake, measuring 6 on the Richter scale, killed more than 1000 people, injured thousands of others, and caused major structural damage. The Salvation Army reports more than 150,000 people missing in Colombia's mountainous coffee-growing region.

The initial tremor and some aftershocks were felt in the capital city of Bogota. News media in Colombia were reporting "chaos" in the city of Armenia, where some residents stormed and looted stores and supermarkets when relief supplies failed to materialize. Martial law was declared there.

"In most cases, the problem is in the distribution," said Dallas Carter, W3PP, in Laurel, Delaware. Carter monitored some of the first reports of the quake via Amateur Radio on a 20-meter relief net run by HK3SA and HK3RQA and has been assisting as a US net control--sometimes for as long as 12 hours a day. Amateur activities were taking place on 14.347 MHz and locally on 7.085 and 7.090 MHz.

Ham radio was a major source of information out of the affected area in the hours immediately following the disaster. "They are requesting blood, water, medical assistance, rescue equipment," Carter said this week. He said HK3SA was flown into the city of Armenia and has set up an HF operation to maintain contact via 40 and 20 meters to directly handle international health-and-welfare requests as well as keep in touch with the capital. He
said 2-meter repeaters were being used for local emergency coordination.

The Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN) has established contact with hams in Colombia and a net on 14.265 MHz and was helping with inquiries about victims. At this point, most of the health-and-welfare traffic was coming into the US from the stricken regions, while not much was going into the area. The Salvation Army's Michael Koenemund, KB1CKF, reported that the Salvation Army had dispatched a 10-member assessment and first response team from Bogota to the affected cities of Pereira and
Ibaque. "The team will render primary services, including food, water and shelter," he said.

The International Red Cross in Colombia has dispatched a team of 80, plus relief equipment and supplies "There's an extreme shortage of doctors," Carter said. "They're still digging people out."

The ARRL has offered its assistance to the Liga Colombiana de Radioaficionados (LCRA), the League's IARU sister society in Colombia.

Media in Bogota have set up Web sites with information from the affected
areas including lists of individual names and status. See or (Spanish) or (English).