Photos and story by, Sydney Morton/IFRC
It’s been over one month since the ground in Lombok started shaking.
Since the first earthquake struck in July 2018, people have now endured more than 1,500 aftershocks. On the morning of 1 September 2018, Northern Lombok was struck again by a 5.3 magnitude aftershock. At least 396,000 people have been displaced in the series of devastating earthquakes. Families are sleeping in temporary shelters and even moving away from the ocean—concerned for their safety if a tsunami should occur.
On 31 August, a major tremor (5.1 magnitude) shook the bustling city of Mataram. Mataram is the main city on the island of Lombok, Indonesia. As the midday prayer sang throughout Mataram city, many residents remained outside fearing aftershocks. Families are using shelter materials provided by the Indonesian Red Cross to rest their heads in a field next to the central mosque in Mataram. Although not all homes have been destroyed in the city, families are widely living outdoors in makeshift quarters—fearing their damaged homes as powerful aftershocks continue.
The destruction caused by each of these events in communities like Dangiang is profound. “We’ve been here for over 40 years.. and raise our children across the street from my sister and her family” nodded Azhar in front of place he used to call home, now demolished. Walking through what was their living room, a television– and even a book from the shelf– remain in the rubble.
Standing in front of the temporary shelter he built with help from the Red Cross, Azhar said “we are strong”.
More than 577 schools are damaged, including one down the street from Azhar’s home. His daughters are students. With classes disrupted amidst the destruction, “they find a way to play and keeping learning here”. Azhar’s little girl Mikaila (pink shirt), 25-months-old, played with a puzzle beside her cousins. Lily (white shirt), is a teacher at the local school in Dangian. “I am ready to return back to the children,” said Lily.
Baiq and 17-month-old Abizar used to live 1 kilometer from the glistening coastline of Kayangan in Northern Lombok. When the first earthquake struck, Baiq’s family feared for their safety should a tsunami occur. With more than 1,500 subsequent tremors, Baiq and her husband fled to higher ground—moving their makeshift shelter to a new community far from home.
Suliko owns a tea and sweets shop in the center of Mataram. Around lunchtime, children from a nearby school line up for treats. “We are tired but have to stay strong,” Suliko said with determination. “We are strong” she emphasized.
Entrepreneurs across the island, like Suliko, are restarting and creating new businesses in front of demolished storefronts. Residents are determined to recover and to provide for their families. These businesses serve as important cornerstones of the community. Now more than ever, community gathering spaces are important to help people gather information, lean on each other and return to a sense of normalcy.
Indonesian Red Cross (Palang Merah Indonesia) volunteers are providing wheel chairs to residents who lost mobility during the series of earthquakes, including Muslim who lives with his family in Northern Lombok. Muslim’s new disability made the transition from his family home to a makeshift shelter made of tarps even more challenging. When the Indonesian Red Cross delivered him a wheelchair, he said with relief “now I can be with my grandchildren”. His son, Agus, stood behind him and lovingly proclaimed, “I think you look handsome in your new wheelchair”.
Neneng, 25, started as a youth volunteer with Red Cross while at university. “I believe in the principal of humanity” she explained with conviction. Now, Neneng teaches children how to stay calm and safe during a natural disaster. She is supporting earthquake preparedness activities on Lombok, as aftershocks continue. Neneng and her team use songs and games to teach children about taking cover and listening to directions during an earthquake. “I volunteer to help children stay safe”.
Originally from the nearby island of Sumbawa, she is one of the over 345 Indonesian Red Cross staff and volunteers working across the island to assess needs, provide clean water, rice and diapers, build latrines, distribute shelter materials and provide health services including psychological support for survivors.
All local university students—Sri, 21 (pink scarf), Heiwati, 19 (grey scarf), and Fitri, 19 (black scarf), are volunteering to help reconnect families separated during the Lombok earthquakes. Fitri shared “we saw a family embrace as they reunited” about a Restoring Family Links case she supported with. The Indonesian Red Cross and International Committee of the Red Cross are helping to provide people with phone calls to their loved ones—which is bringing peace of mind during a difficult time.