Indonesia's Sulawesi was hit by a powerful 7.4-magnitude earthquake followed by a tsunami on 28th September 2018. According to the national disaster mitigation agency on Tuesday, 2nd October 2018, the confirmed death toll from the disaster stood at 1,234. Some 60,000 people were forced to evacuate while another 99 were still missing. 100 police officers were dispatched from Jakarta to Sulawesi while a military air base in East Java had also sent troops to the disaster area. Meanwhile, relief teams and aid supplies from various countries around the world were sent to the island by air or sea.
Many of those who survived the disaster have lost their loved ones and home. They faced food and water shortages and were residing in temporary tent shelters that lack sanitation facilities. A CNN journalist reported that more and more people were losing hope due to the dire conditions in the disaster aftermath.
The adults and children were all cramped within the tent shelters, enduring hunger pangs. One of the disaster victims said, "We are short of drinking water. We need a toilet but we don't have it. Some of the toilets are broken and cannot be used."
Not only were the people in hard-hit Palu (a chartered city on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi) facing water and electricity shortages, they also lacked gasoline. Some people queued up for more than 24 hours with their pails at a gas station in order to obtain some gasoline, while some were seen striking the ground with a pole in a desperate attempt to access an oil storage area underground. A policeman standing next to them turned a blind eye to the acts of vandalism. In this very trying time where everything was lacking, everyone felt for each other.
The tsunami-devastated city was running short of medical supplies, too. A local doctor said, “The hospital staff are disaster victims themselves. Everyone is overwhelmed by the disaster. We really need help.”
A volcano erupted just days after the tsunami struck
According to the Indonesian government, over 20 countries were willing to provide humanitarian aid to the disaster victims in Sulawesi. Mount Spoutan, the volcano on the same island, erupted just days after the tsunami hit, spewing lava as an ash plume reached an altitude of 4,000 m. Residents in the vicinity of 6.5km were quickly evacuated.
Tzu Chi volunteers arrived in Palu
At around noon on 3rd October 2018, a medical relief team from the Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) boarded a military aircraft with 200 kilograms of medical supplies and four tents, and travelled to Palu. Besides assessing the disaster situation, the volunteers also discussed with the Indonesian military how they could collaborate on relief efforts.
In the meantime, Tzu Chi volunteers in Makassar, the provincial capital of South Sulawesi, continued to care for injured earthquake victims in a hospital, and planned to distribute emergency cash to the affected residents.
Most of the patients sustained bruises and bone fractures from the earthquake. Although they were still reeling from the trauma of the disaster, they felt grateful and relieved that they were able to escape to safety.
Tzu Chi volunteer Yang Bi Lu said, “When we were making care visits to the disaster victims, we did not hear them grumbling. Instead, they are very grateful to be able to escape the terrible disaster and settle in a safe place now.”
Yang further added, “We noticed that there are already a lot of aid supplies provided by various other organisations, hence we plan to provide emergency cash relief to the affected residents, so that they may use the money to buy the things they need.”