By Ika Koeck, IFRC
It was just another typical Friday evening for 17-year-old Eliza, who was in the shower preparing for a calm, quiet night at home, when her whole house began to shake.
“I knew it was an earthquake,” said Eliza. “But I couldn’t get out of the bathroom at first because everything was shaking so violently. When I finally got out, I found my mother in the living room and pulled her outside with me.”
The scene on the streets was one of utter chaos.
“People were screaming and shouting and trying to run. By then the tsunami was closing in.”
Eliza then stopped a passing motorcyclist and begged the man to take her mother to higher ground.
“I told him to save my mother. I’m still young. I could still run. But I couldn’t bear the thought of losing my mother.”
Eliza was separated from her mother and other family members. One of her school teachers found her and brought her to a safer area where she sheltered for the night.
“I cried all night thinking about my family, thinking I would never see my mother again,” she said.
Morning brought better news. Some of her family members found her, and Eliza was reunited with her mother. Like thousands of families who lived along the coastline in the district of Tondo, Palu, going home is not yet an option.
Thousands of houses, including Eliza’s, were severely damaged or destroyed when the tsunami cut a swathe of destruction across the land. An estimated 82,700 people are awaiting evacuation to safer zones and many are living under makeshift shelters or in tents. The fear and trauma left in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami remain strong nearly two weeks after the disasters struck.
Red Cross teams from Indonesia and Qatar who are specialised in psychological support are setting up various activities for people living in evacuation areas, encouraging them to express their feelings and cope with the trauma of the tragedy.
“I’m very glad to participate in these sessions,” said Eliza. “It’s good to be able to tell someone how I feel and to share stories about how the tsunami has affected me.
“There is a sense of solidarity in gathering here with people who have also lost their homes, because who can understand the loss better than we can?”