Earthquake Survivors Refuse to Quit

Report from Tim O’Connor, Caritas Australia Communications Officer in Padang, Sumatra

“We heard the noise, it was like a plane coming”, says Azwiran of the earthquake which shattered his tiny village of Palak Juha.

The damage wrought by the earthquake is devastating for the inhabitants of this tiny enclave three hours by road northwest of Padang in Sumatra. The village is close to the epicenter of the 7.6 earthquake and as you enter off the main road a few hundred metres down a dirt track, the scene is utterly shocking.

“For five minutes the earth shook but the buildings only lasted for the first two”, says Azwiran on the steps of his battered house. The sky is pierced with the twisted beams of wood and metal which were once home to twenty families. Bricks and mortar litter the ground. Some residences have completely collapsed leaving just the roof standing upon a pile of rubble. In other houses you can see the trappings of domesticity, beds, cupboards and furniture, incongruous as they now stand under a roof bereft of walls. Every single house is uninhabitable.

Despite the tragedy, we are warmly greeted by the residents. Selamat Siang (Good Afternoon) they call to us, their smiles brightening this desolate scene as they come forward to greet us. Looking at the ruined houses, like in other villages we have visited today, we are expecting the worst in terms of the human toll.

Read the rest of Tim’s story here.

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