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Survivors of the Indonesia earthquake struggle to contemplate what's next

Survivors of the Indonesia earthquake struggle to contemplate what's next A man looks at a mosque that is isolated by water after its br...

Survivors of the Indonesia earthquake struggle to contemplate what's next


A man looks at a mosque that is isolated by water after its bridge was broken due to the massive earthquake and tsunami in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia Friday, Oct. 5, 2018. (Aaron Favila/AP) October 5 at 4:57 AM

PALU, Indonesia â€" Gathered with her extended family under a wide tree at the edge of a dusty soccer field, Veronika is among the tens of thousands of residents of Palu who are stuck in limbo.

A week since a powerful earthquake flattened entire villages and a tsunami hit this coastal region on the island of Sulawesi, the Indonesian government is shifting its attention to the mammoth task of cleaning up and rebuilding. The twin disasters have caused as estimated $700 milli on in damage, and taken 1,558 lives so far. Officials say that rebuilding and reconstructing the villages could take months, as engineers and scientists work to guarantee that the new cities will be better able to withstand the frequent quakes.

For over 70,000 now homeless survivors, and the many more who have lost loved ones, have a more urgent and daunting task of contemplating what to do next.

Some have crowded the crippled airport looking for coveted spots on flights out of the city. Others have joined caravans of motorbikes and cars streaming south to larger cities.

Most, however, remain scattered at makeshift camps pitched on any patch of open space. Living room rugs now serve as tent floors. One family’s collection of pet birds was hung neatly on a rope tied between two bamboo poles.

Those whose houses have not been destroyed say they are too afraid to return inside, fearful that the weakened structures could collapse, especially if there is a strong aftershock.

Many know, too, that they will be dependent on aids and handouts for weeks to come. While Palu city, the first to be reached by rescuers and aid workers after the quake, was slowly returning to a semblance of normalcy, aid distribution points remained chaotic and unable to match the still acute hunger and thirst.

At an aid distribution point set up in a local police station in the Besusu district of Palu city, hundreds of people filled the building’s courtyard hoping to receive prepackaged cups of water and instant noodles. Many in the crowd had waited for hours and come from other more remote areas which have not yet been reached by aid, searching for supplies.

“If we don’t look [for help], we don’t eat,” said Ismaina Sampole, 50. “The people from the outskirts don’t get help, unless you camp out in front of the mayor’s office.”

Vice President Jusuf Kalla, who is leading the rescue effort, visited Balaroa, a villa ge like Veronika’s which was wiped out by liquefaction. Residents who once lived here, he said, would be relocated to other areas because it would be impossible to rebuild their villages. The government, he added, will spend about two months focused on emergency responses, including building temporary shelters for those who have lost homes.

“Then after that, [we will conduct] reconstruction of damaged houses and buildings,” he said.

For Veronika, who The Washington Post first met on Sunday as she desperately tried to make her way to Palu to locate her missing family, the decision of what comes next has been made for her. Her village of Petobo was wiped off the map when the ground turned into a rushing slurry of soil, a phenomenon known as liquefaction.

“Where can we move to?” She asked on Friday. Petobo, where Veronika lived her entire life, is not an option. The ground is too unstable, her husband says. When Veronika sees what remains of the village, she cries uncontrollably.

After waiting from before dawn at an air base in Makassar, south of Palu, for transport on a military plane, Veronika was told on Monday at 10 p.m. there was no open seat for her. She stopped a bus heading north, pleading with the driver to let her on board. The driver told her there was no space, so she sat instead in the aisle for 23 hours.

Back in Palu, Veronika’s husband, unbeknown to her, was nursing scrapes and cuts across his hands and face that he suffered while he dashed with his two children from their crumbling house.

Outside the asphalt street had opened into to deep crevasses. The homes in the village appear to have turned into a “swamp,” he said, and a power pole was pushed along so quickly by the moving ground, Noviranto said it looked as though they were being chased.

“Whenever I tell this story, I realize that it’s really hard to believe,” he said. “How could a power pole chase us? My neighbor g ot swept away not by water, but by the ground. If you weren’t there, you probably wouldn’t believe it.”

In addition to finding a place to live, Veronika is concerned about her two young sons and possible trauma from what they experienced.

One barely speaks, the other cries and mumbles in his sleep.

“Just ask him, ‘where’s the house?’ He’ll say, “it’s turned into a pool,’” she said of her older son.

“Or ask him, what grade are you in? He’ll say, ‘the school was turned into porridge.’”

Read more:

In an Indonesian village, a mournful vigil for bodies

Six days after Indonesia’s double disaster, needs remain acute

‘There’s a smell of dead bodies’: Toll climbs in Indonesia disaster

Today’s coverage from Post correspondents around the world

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Source: Google News Indonesia | Netizen 24 Indonesia

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