saved for years to build our house, but in 30 seconds it was
gone,” said Wartini, a 35-yearold mother of two in Sumber
Mulyo village, 15 kilometres south of Buntol, one of the areas
worst affected by a magnitude 6.3 earthquake that struck at
dawn on 27 May.
The village was destroyed entirely in the tragedy that killed
more than 5,000 people, injured 30,000 and left 200,000 homeless
on the island of Java, which is home to two-thirds of Indonesia’s
240 million people.
Now living in tents provided by the Red Crescent Society
of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the people of Sumber Mulyo
village are starting over.
“We are collecting everything that we can use,”
said Wartini, as she painstakingly pried undamaged bricks
from what was left of the walls of her house. Wood from collapsed
roofs and the iron rods inside the cracked and crushed concrete
will be retrieved.
“In Javanese culture, people will always help each
other,” said Achmer Albugis, a volunteer with the Indonesian
Red Cross Society — known as Palang Merah Indonesia
— who travelled 200 kilometres from his home in neighbouring
Central Java province to assist in the relief effort.
“As soon as I heard about the earthquake, I contacted
some friends and we decided to come,” said Albugis,
54, one of at least 500 Indonesian Red Cross Society volunteers
who worked day and night after the catastrophe.
They were soon backed by a massive humanitarian operation
coordinated by the International Federation, which had at
least 150 international staff dispensing medical treatment
and relief supplies: tents, tarpaulins and clean water.
Yet despite the aid and remarkable levels of community self-help,
it is evident that horrific memories of the quake have left
their mark. “Everyone was screaming and crying for help.
There was a lot of dust and the sound of the roofs crumbling
was so loud,” said Oom, cradling her 5-month-old son
in nearby Jetis village. Of the village’s 122 houses,
only four were left standing.
“I still feel the shaking and I am afraid of another
earthquake. I find it hard to sleep at night,” she said.
Several aftershocks in the immediate aftermath caused widespread
alarm across the region.
Oom and her family, who received help from local volunteers
and a government mobile health clinic in the first 48 hours,
have also received a tent, food packs and hygiene and sanitary
supplies for the baby from the Indonesian Red Cross.