Afraid to go home after the Indonesia earthquakes

Afraid to go home after the Indonesia earthquakes

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Darcy Knoll

Dewi Hanifah will be sleeping in a tent tonight. The emergency response program manager with the relief agency Kopernik will be joining the rest of her team because they’re all worried the ground could shake again. 

“We don’t know what could happen. We might just fall asleep and then have to run,” she says. 

Thousands across Lombok Island, Indonesia, will be sleeping in tents tonight, as they have been for the past few weeks. 

The island has faced a series of earthquakes and aftershocks in recent weeks that have instilled considerable fear in the local population. It started with a 6.4 magnitude earthquake July 29, followed by a severe 7.0 on August 5, a 6.2 a few days later, and, most recently, on August 19 two more 6.3 and 6.9 earthquakes. 

That last one, at 11 p.m., was “a big one,” Hanifah says. 

These strong quakes have been interspersed with hundreds of aftershocks.  

So far, 500 people have died, more than 7,700 injured and an estimated 3.5 million people affected. A further 74,000 homes have been damaged, with 32,000 considered severely or completely destroyed, along with damages to a hospital and health clinics, buildings, schools and bridges. 

The Government of Indonesia is leading relief and recovery efforts to restore electricity and help meet urgent need. 

CARE is supporting local partners, like Kopernik, to deliver hygiene and sanitation supplies, shelter kits and other basic items. As research shows, women and girls are particularly vulnerable following a natural disaster, and CARE will conduct a gender assessment to ensure response efforts best meet the needs of women and girls, as well as men and boys. 

Right now, Hanifah says people need tents, and in some of the cooler, mountainous areas, blankets and other relief supplies. 

She adds that sanitation and hygiene is a growing concern. Currently, the earthquakes have displaced more than 400,000 people. Hanifah says there are some areas where there are 400 displaced people and only one latrine. With limited electricity, it’s also very dark at night and women and children are afraid to go out and use the toilet. 

This is coupled with the trauma people have experienced. Imagine the fear, the worry that comes when you don’t know how hard the ground will shake next. Or when it could happen again.  

Hanifah recalls speaking with a woman named Ibu Wingkan, a mother of two young girls and a resident of Sembalun Bumbung, a village of a 6,400. The Aug. 5 earthquake destroyed the family’s home and they now live in a tent.  

“I asked her, ‘Can we see your house?’ And she said, ‘I’m still afraid to go there,’” Hanifah says.  

She gave directions but didn’t want to return. 

Ibu Wingkan is a farmer, with land next to a hillside. With frequent aftershocks, she’s scared of landslides and unable to continue her work. 

“Now, she’s just sitting, sleeping, with nothing to do, but afraid to go home,” Hanifah says. 

Dewi Hanifah, emergency response program manager for Kopernik, a local partner CARE Indonesia, supports individuals affected by the series of earthquakes that occurred July-August 2018. Photo credit: CARE