By Ika Koeck, IFRC. Photos by Benjamin Suomela, Finnish Red Cross
For Pak Junaidi, seeing a massive wall of sea water blotting out the horizon as the tsunami rolled towards his house was like watching a nightmare come to life.
“I was looking out the window of my room when I saw the waves coming. I grabbed my wife, who was in the room with me, but the waves ripped through the house and carried us inland,” says Pak Junaidi.
The waves dragged him all the way towards the bottom of the hill at the edge of his neighbourhood. “When I was finally able to get out of the water, I ran straight towards the evacuation zone,” says Pak Junaidi. “I found my wife and family there afterwards.”
What remained of his beautiful white two-storey house hung in jagged, broken pieces before a landscape wrecked and torn beyond recognition. “The neighbouring houses are all gone. The mosque is gone. We can only try to pick up the pieces and begin again,” he says.
Nearly two weeks after a series of earthquakes triggered a powerful tsunami, and the needs of the communities in Palu remain massive. Over 10,000 people have been reported injured, and more than 67,000 houses were damaged in the wake of the double disaster.
Rosnawati and her parents, Ernawati and Iwan Susanto, managed to run up to the hills behind their neighbour’s house before the tsunami swept through their neighbourhood.
“I’ve heard stories from my grandmother that if an earthquake happens, we should get to higher ground as soon as we can,” says Rosnawati, whose house was severely damaged by the ensuing tsunami. Along with her parents, Rosnawati was also able to bring her 90-year-old grandmother up to the hill, where they stayed for over a week until they felt it was safe to return home.
“The aftershocks make me nervous,” she says as she walks through the rubble with her son in her arms. There was little left that remained of her the house she had lived in for the past twenty years.
“We have nothing left,” says Rosnawati’s mother, 60-year-old Ernawati. “The water swept everything away and we’re now living in a small room at our neighbour’s house.
The Indonesian Red Cross has been responding to the emergency since the earthquake struck on 28 September 2018. As the main humanitarian actor within the country, the National Society is continuing its focus on helping people in Palu rebuild their lives. Nearly 600 Red Cross volunteers are now in Palu to help distribute relief items, provide medical care, help people cope with their trauma and fear, and to help reunite families who have been separated in the earthquakes and tsunami.