Almost one month after the Earthquakes of 7.4 and 7.6 on the Richter scale near Palu Central Sulawesi, Indonesia.
Wednesday October 25 th, after school, our daughter Emily and I leave for Tentena. Alan my Indonesian husband already packed the car with boxes and rice bags full of items our family does not need but are still in good condition. Whatever needed dusting or washing I already did the day before. Only two pairs of shoes are still hanging on laundry lines.
On Thursday October 26 th my husband drives me on his motorbike to our garage 5 minutes along Lake Poso beachy shore. I drive our car out and wait for my two children whom Alan is picking up from home to take to school. School starts at seven in Indonesia to be out again before the heat. I hug my family not knowing what dangers lay ahead and realizing the risks I take. Wishing me to be extra careful I drive off at 6.31 in the morning.
On the way I pick up my codriver and relative of Alan, Elyng or papa Livanen. Here in Central Sulawesi peoples names change for friends and relatives as soon as your first child is born or adopted. Only a handfull still call me Anne or Annelies here, most call me mama Xander. Today I am Annelies.
My kids are in safe care and I am off to bring usefull items to people in need after the earthquake on 28 September in the afternoon which was followed by a tsunami. Over 2000 people got killed. More than sixhundred are still missing. 60.000 people have lost their homes and are now living in camps. Here, over 200 km away the shaking was very evident but nothing broke. There was a difference from normal trembling which happen regularly. Earthquakes happen regular here but not this strong and not this way. Normally you sway from left to right and back, magnitude 3-5 most. This time way stronger, but after that the earth felt lifted and dropped twice over. This combination was so destructive.
From Parigi on, still 2,5 hours from Palu on the east side of a mountain range, telltale signs of a major event are showing. Gaps 2 meter long and 10 cm wide visible next to the road, cracks crossing roads and cobble stones filled in a crack where a bridge meets its land pillar. About every fifth house has a tent in their yard. A blue tarp, some with partly wooden flooring inside, kapok mattresses and pillows. After eight and a half hours we finally enter Palu. Immediate shock and awe. Forces of nature have shown their utmost devastation. From the beach to almost one kilometer inland everything is totally flattened.
The Indonesian government is doing a great clean up job. Elyng was here two days after the tsunami when stones, trees part of buildings and once living things where thrown about. They have been collected and the roads and land are cleaned and flattened. Big gaps in roads have been filled. The cracks in the city roads are now being repaired with new bases and tar. They are working every day until late night. The full moon helps in the dimmed city. Almost all, still standing buildings that is, have huge cracks. Making many of them unsafe and thus unlivable. People use makeshift tent in their yards. Many have left and are living with relatives elsewhere. Electricity is on again and water is being pumped from rivers by French and Danish specialist and distributed among the camps. These foreigners are all specialists and live self supported.
I found only four hotels open and the last one had rooms available. Germans doing survey on mental support needed, were also staying there as well as a top man from the Indonesian red cross. In a meeting with many disciplines the government promised to start building private wooden temporary housing for the refugees in January he tells us.
In the morning we meet up with a Malaysian medic team going to a refugee camp furthest north from Palu. We follow them with a distribution team from miss Sherly. All Palu camp are divided and this distribution team coordinates the gifts and handouts and donations and foods from locals and government to six locations. We visit one. This camp is situated almost an hours drive from Palu to the North in Tawaele Panau. The camps name is Panau Lumbuna. Together with its neighbor camp they house 600 people. Some tarp tents contain one family, some 5 and some 10 families. A family consists of an average of five people. Inside most have now wooden flooring to keep the floor dry, then a layer of carpet or sleeping mats.
I talk to a grandmother. She tells me her story. After the earthquake she saw the wave from the tsunami coming to her house near the beach and ran up the hill with her two year old grandson in her arms. Her eleven year old granddaughter Vidiya ran also but they lost each other. Vidiya’s mother got hit by a falling wall during the earthquake without anybody’s knowledge. How she survived the tsunami is unclear. Two days later when searching for her she was found with head wounds and blood everywhere. It was an emotional reunion she tells me, they cried a lot and thanked God. Now they; grandmother, her 5 children and grandchildren all share one tent. I met her around eleven thirty and they did not eat that day yet since it was a Friday and most volunteers and refugees where to the mosque for prayer. Food was late. She wished she had her own bit of rice for days like this and could cook a bit on her own. The tent is about six by ten meter square. Extremely clean and organized by the ladies living there. Men had gone back to their house to find items for their use. They found planks, which they reused for flooring in this tent. They found sarongs and a few clothes they could wash in the sea and reuse. A few pots and a suitcase. The rest was gone, flattened by the fallen house and ruined by the tsunami. The rest she possesses now is given to her by donations from distribution centers allocated to her camp. Like pillows and blankets and some clothes. Since their camp is the last and furthest and a small one, the distribution to this one is slow and they receive the last picks. Her daughter was breastfeeding their two year old lying down on a carpet like cloth on the planks. The coordinator shows me 5 sacks full of clothes. They are too small, too large, full of holes or stains. People think they have clothes but they are unusable. There is more with the distribution team, but people don’t want to complain and ask too much. They are not used to begging for things. Most Indonesians are dignified and proud people used to taking care of themselves. Only after asking what is missing here, grandmother Vidiya answers: “everything” and laughs. But she still feels lucky for having all her 5 children alive and with her.
In another tent is a similar make up. I talk to a former excavator driver who broke his knee cap when his house fell on him. He was brought to the nearby stationed floating hospital from the army. He was hospitalized for a week and now recuperates in the camp. His son broke his arm and had a pin inserted in the same boat hospital. They both are not capable of going to work or their plantation or to their old location of where their house once stood to find things like most men do during the day. His leg is still swollen but wound dressing is changed daily by local nurses. He is very optimistic and laughs a lot. He says it keeps him going and stay positive even though he lost one son who was never found.
A tiny women, frail and 70 years old scoots over and wishes to be photographed with me. She has cataract in both eyes and tells me she does not know how and why she survived. She only remembers getting picked up by the tsunami wave and thrown about. She must have landed on something solid we conclude and found by people who carried her here. I tell her I am happy she survived so I could meet her. She gives me a smile with broken teeth.
Then I am ushered to the next tent to talk to a mother who lost her baby, ripped from her arms when the tsunami water came. I refuse to go. My emotional bucket is full. Already! I won’t be any good for her balling my eyes out in front of her. I will mentally prepare myself to meet her next time when I come back. There is food for about a day in this camp then they have to report and ask for more from the distribution team. I have daily contact with the distribution team and the camp coordinator trying to fill the tiny gaps. Communication with somewhat psychological skills are in order here.
People are traumatized, put together in large groups in small spaces. They are suddenly expected to share, divide, be civil at all times, wait in line to get food or go to the toilet. They must be frustrated, scared, worried for the future, in mourning for their loved ones gone missing and bored all at the same time. Not even counting the weakened physical state with wounds and lack of nutrition or lack of sleep yet. People’s thinking could easily become negative, with jealousy and anger. We are all human. Indonesia is my home for 20 years already and now I see part of my home in anguish. I try to image the amount of mental emotions they all face and fail to do so. Unbelievable and overwhelming. We spent the afternoon shopping most requests I heard that day. Bails of rice, fruits and live chickens, blankets and mosquito repellant. We drop this off and return home, vowing to ourselves to do our utmost best to find all the help they will still need for the next year to come.
Will you help me?
Donate to Stichting Lake Poso
Account number 313333440
Postbus 48, 7550 AA
donate directly to Sherly’s distribution center. Under the name:
Sherly Novita Kesuma
Bank Central Asia, branch Rungkut, Indonesia
account number 0148220514120
Swift code CENAIDJA
Sent from Tandobone bungalows at Lake Poso, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia