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On site: MCC reps view Indonesian earthquake damage, talk to survivors
Dan and Jeanne Jantzi
October 6, 2009
Editor’s Note: Dan and Jeanne Jantzi, MCC representatives in Indonesia, traveled from their home base of Salatiga to Padang where they could see the recent earthquake damage and assess how MCC can meet the short-term and long-term needs of earthquake survivors. The Jantzis are from Lowville, N.Y . Here are some of their reflections, in their own words, after their first day in Padang:
PADANG, Indonesia — Collapsed and tilted buildings jarred our senses all over the city of Padang; yet the devastation is not complete. Ruined buildings stand side by side with shops that are bustling with business. Gray dust fills the air. Buildings sit at crazy angles, with broken glass in the windows and furniture hanging over the edges where walls used to be. Chunks of cement hang on twisted steel reinforcement bars poking out into open air. And yet in front of this, the regular sidewalk stalls serve their customers who eat in the shadow of the destruction.
We talked about plans a bit as we stood on the sidewalk with Pak Joko, an experienced relief worker with the Indonesian Mennonite Diakonial Service. Other bystanders joined our conversation, agreeing with Pak Joko that while the destruction in the city of Padang is devastating, the damage and needs in the surrounding area of Padang Pariaman is much more serious. An area as wide as 600 kilometers has been affected by the earthquake. The villages in the hills and valleys far from the city have been badly damaged and relief work has not yet focused on those areas.
Mama Angel feels the trauma
We arrived at the BNKP (Nias Protestant Church) just as the field kitchen finished serving the evening meal. People filled the church yard, talking quietly, sitting on furniture that had been pulled from houses, eating and playing chess. People had been sleeping at the church until the mayor of Padang made a rule that people must stay at their own homes to guard them, even if they cannot sleep inside the homes.
Mama Angel, a nurse whose husband, Pak Mesiduhu, pastors the church, said that her family now sleeps just inside the door of their parsonage with the doors wide open. She is quite aware of the trauma she is experiencing and the stress that goes with it. She said that even the loud sounds from airplanes overhead still cause the children to cry.
At the time of the earthquake, she and her husband were about to visit a church member in the hospital. In front of their eyes, they saw the hospital split in two. They ran for home through beachfront streets crowded with panicked people trying to escape the tsunami they believed would follow. Upon arriving home, they found their furniture overturned, plates broken and the new Sunday School building behind their home knocked off its pillars. The electricity went out and a rainstorm began. And then the calls started coming from distraught church members.
Mama Angel said, “I am still feeling the trauma. I am a nurse and I work on the third floor, far from any exits. My building shakes every day. It’s not stable. No one has assured us that it is safe. I am so afraid it will still collapse. I pray every day when I go to work. I know I have to be a good witness to my co-workers who aren’t of the same faith as me.”
As we sat together on the front porch of the parsonage, I asked how brothers and sisters far away could pray for them. Various church members shared these prayer requests:
Searching for survivors
The sixth day after an earthquake brings the crucial call about whether to halt the search for survivors. According to international standards, the chances of finding anyone alive under the rubble are so slim there is no point in continuing to search. The Ambacang Hotel in Padang still has a possible 200 people buried inside. Two professional seminars were going on at the time of the earthquake last week. Since a large part of the building collapsed, several people were able to send out messages to say there were survivors inside. As darkness fell today, we stood with the crowds of people who still stood in the street, watching the backhoes claw through the rubble, not wanting to give up hope.