Text: Caroline Haga / IFRC

Photos: Benjamin Suomela, Kathy Mueller, Iris Van Deinse, Antony Balmain

One year ago, on 28 September 2018, the Indonesian island of Sulawesi was hit by a triple disaster that killed more than 4,300 people and displaced 173,000.

A series of strong earthquakes struck the island, the worst being a shallow quake of 7.4 magnitude. The earthquake triggered tsunami waves of up to three meters high. The tsunami in turn caused landslides and liquefaction that swallowed entire villages whole.

Within minutes, trained staff and volunteers from the Indonesian Red Cross (Palang Merah Indonesia or PMI) were in action, leading search and rescue efforts and providing first aid and other life-saving help.

“This disaster was violent and unexpected and completely devastated communities right across Sulawesi. Many of our own people were affected by the earthquake, tsunami and liquefaction but went into action to help others who were even worse off,” said Arifin M. Hadi, Indonesian Red Cross Head of Disaster Management.

A massive emergency response operation was launched by the Indonesian Red Cross, with support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

In the past year, Indonesian Red Cross staff and volunteers have brought emergency items like food, hygiene kits, mosquito nets and blankets to 108,000 people, and drinking water to 280,000 people. More than 17,000 people have received medical care and 14,000 people psychosocial support.

An estimated 57,000 people whose houses stood on land lost to liquefaction and subsequently red-zoned are still homeless and waiting for certainty on where they can rebuild. The disaster robbed families of their farmlands, fishing boats and other sources of income. The triple disasters left many people dealing with fear, as some refuse to even step foot on the areas surrounding the liquefaction site or the tsunami-hit beaches.

The Indonesian Red Cross continues its support to communities in the complex recovery phase. Teams will focus on the long-term needs of nearly 90,000 people in 24 of the worst-hit communities in Sulawesi.

“We will shift our focus on creating a more resilient community, helping train people to build better, stronger homes, providing permanent water sources, rebuilding health centers and helping people restore their incomes by providing livestock or boats,”  said Arifin M. Hadi.