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SAR & SAREX

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MonsoonMaiden

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We have several SAREX (Search and Rescue Exercises) every year, organised by the RCC (Rescue Coordination Centre). The date of the SAREX is usually faxed to us a few months before & most of the forecasters can then be seen checking the roster to see who's going to be on duty that day. The rescue location is announced on the day itself, & our job consists of providing wind, weather & sea state conditions every 3 hours for that area.

During the time I've worked here, I've encountered real-life SARs (Search & Rescues) twice :

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On 19 Dec 1997, Silkair flight 185 crashed into the Musi River near Palembang, enroute from Jakarta to Singapore. The crash was surrounded by much controversy amid speculation that the pilot deliberately crashed the aircraft in a mass suicide/homicide. All 104 people on board died.

On 3 Jan 2003, a Singapore navy ship, the RSS Courageous, collided with a merchant vessel, the ANL Indonesia, near Horsburgh Lighthouse.

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ANL Indonesia didn't seem too severely damaged, but the navy ship looked bad. Four young Navy women officers who had been in the sleeping quarters at the aft of the ship were reported missing.

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I jotted this down at the time :

"We didn't start the SAR here till yesterday morning, although the collision took place the previous night; and last night they stopped as well, and only started again this morning at dawn.

The RCC has only requested data till 0200UTC tomorrow (10am local time). What does that mean? Do they think they will be able to find the women by 10am?"

The RCC was supposed to call during my night shift to let me know when they were stopping for the night, but they didn't (later I discovered it was an oversight on their part). I remember being in the brightly-lit airconditioned office, & thinking that it was hard to imagine what it must be like to be out there in the dark, combing the sea for bodies. Of the four missing officers, only three bodies were recovered; the fourth woman was never found.

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