Indonesia tsunami: “We are in urgent need of help”

A woman wades through water surrounded by damaged homes following the tsunami (low resolution mobile phone image)

“What we have witnessed since Friday is horrifying.”

Rini Haris, a 37-year-old mother of two, lives in Palu, the densely populated city in north Sulawesi which bore the brunt of the tsunami. She told us:

Many houses in the surrounding area have been destroyed. I am currently staying in a wooden hut next door to my home and my kids are taking refuge in a shelter at the elementary school. Electricity is out so it is difficult to get information from others or communicate. There is a lot of looting and theft and I am having to be very vigilant. Our drinking water and clean water is almost finished.

Rini is describing the aftermath of the 7.5 magnitude earthquake that hit the island, and the subsequent tsunami that hit many nearby coastal areas.

The scene can only be described with one word: chaos

Many people are sleeping in communal shelters or out in the open, and access to drinking water and cover from the rain are a big problem.

Women and girls are particularly vulnerable. Rini notes that many pregnant women have been evacuated to Makassar in the south of the island, but many – especially those without money – remain in this chaos, posing risks to their own and their chilren’s health.

However, Rini, who used to work for CARE Indonesia, is not losing hope:

“My husband and I are still in good spirits, because we have experience in humanitarian organisations. I used to work for CARE from 2004 to 2008 in Poso.”

I really hope that CARE will reach Palu to help with medicines, clean water, food, emergency shelters, blankets and baby necessities.

“The people of Sulawesi are in urgent need of medical services due to the high number of casualties. Local facilities cannot bear the burden of this tragedy without extra assistance,” says Rini.

CARE is participating in a joint inter-agency assessment of the damages caused by the earthquake and tsunami that has so far killed around 1,407 people and left a further 2,550 injured. CARE is aiming to support up to 70,000 people, mainly in the hard-to-reach Donggala area, with life-saving drinking water, sanitation, shelter and livelihoods support.

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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.