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USA: MAF providing communications assistance to southeast Texas in wake of hurricane Ike

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ANAHUAC, Texas-09-24-08-MAF is providing critical satellite telephone and Internet access for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other relief workers in Chambers County, Texas. The county sustained heavy damage from Hurricane Ike earlier this month.

MAF staff arrived in Anahuac on Monday, Sept. 22, to operate two Ground Antenna Transmit and Receive (GATR) Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) satellite communications systems that will provide high-bandwidth communications for some 500 relief workers housed in a "tent city" at the Anahuac airport.

GATR Technologies, which is based in Huntsville, Ala., is supplying the two inflatable, deployable satellite communications systems, as well as one of its own employees, who will work in partnership with the MAF staff members.

Chambers County and the Bolivar Peninsula were among the hardest hit by Ike, said David Hoffman, MAF coordinator for disaster response information and communications technology. The bayside towns of Oak Island and Smith Point were all but wiped out. Of about 700 houses in that area, perhaps five remain. Much of the county has no power or water.

The VSAT systems will allow aid workers to communicate with coworkers around the country, facilitating relief efforts, said Hoffman. The emergency communications network will likely be used for two to four weeks, he said.

"MAF personnel have unique experience and training that allows them to respond to disaster situations," said Hoffman. "In the past month, MAF relief flights in Haiti have provided aid to thousands stranded by four devastating storms."

Founded in the United States in 1945, MAF missionary teams of aviation, communications, technology and education specialists minister and enable the work of more than 1,000 organizations in isolated areas of the world. With its fleet of 134 bush aircraft, MAF serves in 51 countries with an average of 281 flights daily across Africa, Asia, Eurasia and Latin America. MAF pilots transport missionaries, medical personnel, medicines and relief supplies, as well as conduct thousands of emergency medical evacuations. MAF also provides telecommunications services, such as satellite Internet access, high-frequency radios, electronic mail and other wireless systems.

Incorporated in 2004, GATR Technologies (www.gatr.com) provides deployable satellite solutions, including a patented inflatable antenna, advanced material research and development, and custom engineering services, to military, broadcast and public safety markets.