On December 26, 2004, an earthquake, measuring 9.0 on the Richter Scale, erupted miles below the Indian Ocean, giving way to the world’s deadliest tsunami in history. From Tanzania to Indonesia, more than 300,000 people would be reported dead within hours of the waves’ impact; farmlands, wells and groundwater supplies would be inundated with contamination – as roads, electricity and communication systems were devastated.
The first wave of relief brought pallets of bottled water and water-bearing tanks to Indonesia’s shore. But with nearly five million people affected, specifically in the utlying areas, a more sustainable water source was needed – a portable unit capable of getting drinkable water to the region’s most remote, ravaged villages quickly.
The Vortex Voyager
Floridian businessman Joe Hurston, also a seasoned missionary pilot, was one of the relief workers who descended upon Medon, Indonesia in the early days following the tsunami and prepared to dispense water immediately. Hurston, along with his seven member crew, used 20 donated Vortex Voyager units (brought with them from the US), to pump clean water from standing, unsanitary water flooding the streets. In the first hour, 600 gallons of pure water (each unit producing 30 gals/hour) flowed from the unit. Soon a military officer from Singapore (charged with coordinating relief efforts) learned of Hurston’s work and allowed him, and his crew, to board a plane destined for Malabo – an Indonesian township that lost nearly half its population following the tsunami. Literally, millions of locals were left homeless, starving and without access to sanitation, medicine or potable water – the threat of disease and dehydration increasing by the hour. “Once we set up the machines, people just started coming – hundreds of people,” said Hurston. “I’ve been a missionary for over 30 years, and I’ve seen devastation take on many different faces. But the ominous grimace of the tsunami was like nothing I’d ever seen before. Malabo was a wasteland. When we showed up with a unit on our backs capable of turning murky, diseased water into clean water, well, to these survivors it was as close to a miracle as you get.”