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NMCB 7 Aids Tsunami-wrecked Sri Lanka

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050121-07
Release Date: 1/21/2005 2:21:00 PM

By Journalist Seaman S.C. Irwin, Navy Public Affairs Center San Diego

KOGGALA, Sri Lanka (NNS) -- Since their arrival Jan. 13, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 7 has been a hard-hitting force in the effort to salvage tsunami-damaged areas in southern Sri Lanka in support of Operation Unified Assistance.

The Battalion, aided by the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), has already completed several operations in the southwestern cities of Koggala and Galle, including clearing a schoolhouse site of rubble before demolishing two nearby unstable structures.

"We've seen an immediate effect through our efforts," said NMCB 7 Officer in Charge, Lt. Jorge Cuadros. "Within two days of clearing the demolished schools, children were back to their classes learning."

Cuadros conducted an engineering assessment of the area upon his arrival, including the mangled railway system.

"It was amazing to see miles and miles of devastation," said Cuadros. "Parts of the railroad tracks looked as if they were picked up and thrown 20 feet off course."

Tsunami survivors also are dealing with the burden of contaminated drinking water and structural damage beyond repair to many buildings as a result of the wave's force.

NMCB 7, in conjunction with the U.S. Marines' 9th Engineer Support Battalion (ESB) and the Austrian Army, led the way in distributing well over 10,000 gallons of drinking water to relief camps near and around Sri Lanka's tsunami-hit coastline.

In addition, members of the 70-person group were involved in improving the city's protective seawall by shifting large rocks to vital positions. They also are reconstructing restroom facilities on school grounds.

NMCB 7's main objectives are the completion of engineering efforts approved by local government officials and clearing the community of hazardous debris.

The Seabees plan to exhibit their 'can do' attitude by applying it to other scheduled demolitions, returning the railroad system to its original layout and limited construction projects at the relief camps throughout Sri Lanka.

"We plan to work until the [Sri Lankan] government feels it is ready to turn the workload over to local contractors," added Cuadros. "NMCB 7 being able to respond to the relief effort so quickly is just another example of how ready we are to help out in situations like this."

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