A year after Indonesia's quake-tsunami, survivors struggle to rebuild lives

by Beh Lih Yi | @BehLihYi | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 27 September 2019 23:01 GMT

Ruins and damaged building are pictured nearly one year after an earthquake and tsunami at a beach in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, September 26, 2019. Antara Foto/Oscar Motuloh/ via REUTERS

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A year after a 7.5-magnitude quake hit the city of Palu, tens of thousands remain homeless and children are still out of school

By Beh Lih Yi

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 28 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Tens of thousands of Indonesians are struggling to rebuild their lives a year after a powerful earthquake and tsunami caused widespread devastation, with many still homeless and schools unable to reopen, aid groups said on Saturday.

The city of Palu, on the island of Sulawesi, was devastated by a 7.5-magnitude earthquake and a tsunami it unleashed on Sept. 28 last year, killing more than 4,000 people.

Humanitarian aid poured in after the disaster but local charities said a year on, survivors were still living in makeshift accommodation and children could not return to schools, as they called for rebuilding efforts to be stepped up.

"Children long for a sense of normality," said Dino Satria from the charity Save the Children Indonesia, which estimated that two-thirds of about 1,300 local schools were still damaged.

"They continue to be traumatised by the disaster as they cannot go back to schools, cannot return to their normal routine as a way to help them overcome their trauma," the operation director told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Palu.

Satria urged authorities to speed up reconstruction efforts, but a local education official said the task was enormous without sufficient funding, although rebuilding schools was a top priority.

"Sadly, we are restricted by a lack of funds. I need an additional $11 million just to rebuild the schools in Palu City. The task at hand is immense," Ansyar Suitiadi, the head of education in Palu said in a statement by Save the Children.

A resident walks at an area hit by the earthquake and tsunami in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

The Indonesian Red Cross estimates 57,000 people in Palu are homeless, and continue to live in camps and temporary shelters.

"We are hoping the government will redouble their efforts to identify settlement areas and help thousands of families," Jan Gelfand, Indonesia head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said in a statement.

The Southeast Asian nation of 260 million, which sits on the seismically active Pacific Ring of Fire, often experiences deadly earthquakes and tsunamis.

The twin quake-and-tsunami tragedy that hit Palu last year came one month after the Indonesian resort island of Lombok was rocked by quakes that flattened villages and killed more than 500 people.

Fifteen years ago, a quake off Sumatra island triggered a tsunami across the Indian Ocean that killed 226,000 in 14 countries, more than 120,000 of them in Indonesia.

(Reporting by Beh Lih Yi @behlihyi; Editing by Michael Taylor. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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