By Husni, IFRC

Help is reaching villages cut off from the outside world more than two weeks after a series of damaging earthquakes struck the Indonesian island of Lombok.

People desperately need food, water and medical care, they told Indonesian Red Cross teams, who drove four hours and then were forced by landslides to walk two kilometres to reach Tangga, a village of 400 in mountainous North Lombok.

Through tears, Rute, 52, said “We have survived thanks to our plantations and the kind support of friends from outside Tangga who used motorbikes to bring us food and bottled water”.

Although the earthquakes and major aftershocks on 29 July, 5 August and 9 August destroyed houses, community centres and water systems in the village, no one was killed or seriously injured. Across Lombok, the official death toll is now more than 430, with 350,000 people displaced.

Still, spending weeks under canvas or plastic is taking its toll on people with underlying sickness, like Rute’s husband, 65.

“My husband, Karmadi, is ill and getting worse as we are camping in the open space. He has respiratory problems and it’s not good for him to be exposed to cold air at night under the tent since the quakes hit and forced their people to live in the open air.”

Also in tears, the head of the sub-village, Muhammad Abdul Aziz, 24, said Tangga relied on close friends’ support to survive.

“We desperately need safe water and food to stay alive.”

On reaching the village, Indonesian Red Cross (Palang Merah Indonesia) disaster responders were able to provide first aid and assess immediate needs, arranging for bottled water and rice to be delivered by motorbike that afternoon. Other assistance is on its way.

The Red Cross is the first aid organisation to visit Tangga.

Remote villages are a top priority for the Indonesian Red Cross, which has already assessed many communities where it is providing medical care, food, water, shelter materials and other help.

The Head of Disaster Management for the Indonesian Red Cross, Arifin Muhammad Hadi, said, “We receive reports every day that there are many people who have not been reached with help. We are concerned that they have no place to shelter and have no food or clean water.”

Earthquakes and aftershocks have fractured roads, brought down tonnes of soil on them and damaged bridges, hampering efforts by Indonesian Red Cross teams to each people in need.

“Access to remote communities has been a major challenge for us,” said Arifin Muhammad Hadi.

Nevertheless, more than 400 Red Cross staff and volunteers from all over Indonesia, supported by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, continue to search for people still in need.