Young mum, Nunek Handayam, thought it was safe. After the magnitude 6.4 earthquake cracked the roof of their house on 29 July, Nunek, her husband, their young sons and her mother all moved out to camp in the garden. As the aftershocks become less severe, the family moved back into their house.

But one week later, as Nunek made dinner outside, a 6.9 quake struck. Frightened, her four-year-old, Fakeh Khairil Rohman, ran to her. He wasn’t fast enough. A wall of their house crashed down on him, completely burying him.

Indonesia, Lombok, Dangiang village, 9 August 2018.  Credit: Rosemarie North / IFRC

“It was a long time before we found him under the rubble. I was hysterical, crying and screaming. I thought he was dead,” says Nunek Handayam.

When he emerged, his eyes were closed, and he didn’t seem to be breathing.

Remembering CPR from videos and books, his mother began to do chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth. After three sets, he showed signs of coming around but it was hours before he made a sound again.

Fearing more quakes, the family, including 10-month-old baby Ahmad Farid Ismail, spent a cold, restless night in dry rice paddy fields. They noticed Fakeh’s upper leg was swollen and he couldn’t move it. In the morning, his father, Ahmad Rifai, fearing the femur was broken, stabilised it with a splint of bamboo and string.

Dangiang, in North Lombok, is in the area worst affected by the double disaster and hundreds of aftershocks. Not a single house or building in the village of 1,240 families and about 5,000 people remains standing.
Nunek’s family spent several nights in the family’s pickup truck, using the tyres to absorb the earth’s convulsions. Then they moved to a tarpaulin shelter with some other families, and a man who seemed to have cracked his pelvis. They salvaged some items and extended family gave them food.

Fakeh was lucky. An Indonesian Red Cross medical team examined his leg, found he’d dislocated his knee and were able to help him on the spot. They asked the family to bring the youngster to hospital to check everything was OK but the family didn’t want to leave the village. Instead, the Red Cross health team promised to return soon. They transported the man with a pelvic injury to hospital.

Meanwhile, other members of the Red Cross team fanned out across the village to assess damage and needs, distributed sleeping mats and tarpaulins, and erected a model emergency shelter to demonstrate how people could build light, earthquake-resistant shelters that offer more privacy, space and security. A team of volunteers and community members began clearing debris, while volunteers from another province occupied and entertained children with songs, conducted basic schooling lessons and played football made out of plastic wrapped around a rock.

The race to reach remote communities

Fakeh and his family are exactly the sort of people who worry Arifin Hadi, Head of Disaster Management for the Indonesian Red Cross or Palang Merah Indonesia.

“The Red Cross is getting reports that people living in remote areas need food, water, shelter, clothing and medical care but haven’t been reached by anyone.”

In some cases, access has been blocked by damaged bridges, landslides, fallen trees or huge cracks in the road. But roads are being opened up – sometimes haltingly if an aftershock brings more obstacles.

“It’s tempting to first help people camping by the side of the main road. We can see their damaged houses. But what about people further away? They are almost invisible. We’re keen to reach everyone but we’re particularly worried about children and older people,” says Arifin Hadi.

On Friday 10 August, the Indonesian Red Cross team set off with emergency supplies to reach villages even more remote than Dangiang, requiring an overnight stay. The aim is to bring life-saving aid, perhaps for the first time in nearly a week.

by Rosemarie North, IFRC