By Iris van Deinse, IFRC

It has been three weeks since the deadly tsunami on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi swept away her house. Every time she thinks about that day, her eyes get wet. “Everyone thought I died,” says Nursiah, while she tries to find valuables and clothes in the debris. Only the blue roof in the rubble reminds her of a place that used to be home.

She used to live in a house near the coastline in Mamboro, a fishing village in Central Sulawesi. What used to be a cosy home is now a muddy flattened area near the sea. It makes it even more painful for her to remember what happened.

“While I was in the shower, the earth started shaking. I was in shock and couldn’t walk.” Luckily, her neighbor noticed her and dragged her to an open space, near the coast. They fled from falling debris as the coconut trees around her house threatened to crash down on them, not knowing that the tsunami was fast approaching.

“Then we saw these huge waves coming towards us. And I still couldn’t walk, my legs wouldn’t work, I panicked.” Her neighbour took care of her and carried her to the mountains. They both escaped the deadly waves.

Nursiah was alone at home during the event. She wanted to take a shower and visit a festival at the beach afterwards. The only thing she was wearing when she fled was a sarong. Right now, she’s desperately looking for her clothes among the rubble. “I didn’t have anything to wear. Luckily some people donated some clothes, but I still need more.”

After the event, all communication lines were down. Nursiah wanted to tell her 17-year-old son that she survived, but she couldn’t reach him. Her son thought that his mother passed away. Nursiah informed the head of the village that she survived the event. The head of the village managed to locate her son and reunited the family.

Many people lost their relatives while searching for a safe place to take shelter when the earthquake struck. With hundreds of people still waiting for news about their loved ones, family news is one of the important parts of the Red Cross response. The Indonesian Red Cross is there to comfort traumatized survivors with psychosocial support teams and provides them with relief items, such as tarpaulins, blankets, mats and hygiene kits.