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Major helps at Indonesian air disaster

RayBegleyKids2005: Norwich Salvation Army Major Ray Begley has spoken of how he went to help at the scene of a plane crash in a crowded Indonesian neighbourhood, in which 147 people died.

Ray, from Earlham Road, Norwich, an officer at the Citadel Salvation Army Corps in Norwich, travelled to the country last month to take on the role of liaison officer via the church's emergency co-ordination office for three months, working with the government and other relief organisations on post-tsunami projects.

But on September 5, the 47-year-old was called into action when a Boeing 737-200 crashed seconds after taking off on a domestic flight from Medan airport in northern Sumatra.

"We were in the office and we got a telephone call to say there had been a terrible plane crash," said Ray.

"I'm here working on the Salvation Army Tsunami Project so we immediately left and went straight to where the plane crashed.

"It was a total disaster because the plane crashed right in the middle of a street in a market town.
"It was chaos initially because houses had been burnt out and people killed and bodies were all over the place. The plane had completely gone, it was devastating.

"The volunteers then went back to base to prepare more meals and drinks and were escorted back into the crash site. The streets were covered in black fuel and everything was covered in soot because of the fires. It really was a terrible place to be."

Up to 16 passengers survived the crash, including an 18-month-old boy.

The Mandala Airlines plane skidded on to a busy road and into a row of houses just 500m from the airport.

Ray headed to Indonesia on August 15 to spend three months working on a massive tsunami relief programme.

The Salvation Army worldwide raised $40 million in a few weeks following the December 26 disaster and has been using the money to rebuild 2500 homes, two schools and a medical centre.

In Banda Ache and on the island of Nias in Indonesia, 130,000 people were killed. On Nias an earthquake hit just days after the tsunami, creating even greater devastation and death.

Major Begley, who is officer in charge at the Norwich Citadel on St Giles, has been appointed by The Salvation Army's International Headquarters to go to Indonesia for three months to work with a group of very capable Salvation Army Officers from Indonesia. His job is to report back to London and to the Salvation Army in the USA who provided much of the money.

"My task will be to act as a 'bridge-builder' to ensure efficient co-ordination with the Indonesian government, other relief organisations and within the Salvation Army itself," said Ray. "I'm very much prepared for my trip to Indonesia and I am looking forward to making a positive difference to the people affected by the tsunami.

"It is going to be a very demanding but an exciting challenge," said Ray. "We raised so much money at Norwich Citadel for the tsunami victims that I now feel I can do my small part in rebuilding the lives of many people.

"There are parts of Indonesia which are so remote that I will have to walk for two days to see what The Salvation Army are doing. Then two more days to walk back and make my reports."

Pictured above is Major Ray Begley showing his two daughters Alicia (left) and Danielle, where he was heading for.  Picture courtesy of EDP

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