Aid Reaches Forgotten Quake Survivors

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The Indonesian village of Lurah Ampalu receieves 1,600 tarps, which will be used for temporary shelters. The tarps are the first part of a Caritas shelter response. Photo by Laura Sheahen/CRS

“Villagers didn’t know people were searching for them, trying to help them,” says Fabian Tritschler, member of an international Caritas aid team that arrived in the Indonesian city of Padang shortly after a powerful earthquake struck it. With much of the first response focused on the city’s collapsed buildings, rural villages to the north were at risk of being forgotten.

The CRS-Caritas team swung into action immediately. They ordered items that people in severely damaged villages were most likely to need and then they headed for Padang.

They were forced to travel circuitous routes because the airport was closed. Then, coping with no water or electricity, the team set up a 30-person operation in a day.

The team fanned out and drove out to northern villages, passing hundreds of roofless, wall-less houses whose families huddled in their front yards, sleeping on the ground. The team identified thousands of people needing basic shelter. On Tuesday, CRS distributed 1,595 tarps in the villages of Lurah Ampalu, an impoverished area where many villagers survive on subsistence farming.

“We saw people using them right away,” says Yudi Wiryawan, emergency response leader for CRS Indonesia. Allius, a 36-year-old father, received one of the tarps and used it to erect a shelter within an hour of distribution, tying one part of it to a tree. “All ten of my family have been sheltering under four sheets of corrugated iron. My father had a stroke and needs constant assistance. We are very thankful for the shelter, because we have lost everything.”

“I salvaged the old roof sheets of my house. I’ll use them for walls,” said Darmanes, a mother of four. “Then I’ll put the tarp on top for a roof.”

With years of experience rebuilding homes after several Indonesian earthquakes, the team will continue to search for, and help, the most needy. “There are more villages to the north that are yet to receive assistance,” says Tritschler. “In the coming days we’ll send out more assessment teams to find out what help they need.”

-Laura Sheahen, Regional Information Officer for CRS Asia. Tim O’Connor, Communications Officer for Caritas Australia, contributed reporting.

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