‘We Thought the World Was Ending’: Indonesian Villagers Describe Earthquake

Enih with her grandson

Mrs. Enih Sumarny stands with her grandson outside her house, which was severely damaged in the earthquake. Photo by Laura Sheahen/CRS

Enih Sumarny is 67 years old, too young to have such a hoarse, faint voice. “I screamed so much my throat is raw,” she whispers.

Enih is talking about last Wednesday afternoon, when a 7.3-magnitude earthquake rocked her small village in southern Indonesia. She was in her house cooking vegetables when she felt the shockwaves. “I ran out of my house, and in less than fifteen seconds, everything collapsed.”

During the next few minutes, it was hard to see. Nine-year-old Indri, Enih’s neighbor, was riding her bike when the quake struck. “I jumped off my bike and ran to find my mother, but it was hard to find her because the dust made everything dark,” she says.

Earthquakes strike the large Indonesian island of Java frequently, but Wednesday’s was particularly powerful. “This never happened here before,” says Enih. “Everyone was screaming.”

“We thought the world was ending,” says another woman. Surrounded by the fallen debris of their homes and fearing aftershocks, many residents of Pamalayan village fled three miles up the hills to sleep on safer ground. The next day, they returned to find homes destroyed, furniture buried under rubble, and wells covered with debris.

CRS’ local partner, the IBU Foundation, was able to respond immediately thanks to preparedness training and stockpiles of quake items given by CRS. On Thursday, IBU volunteers began distributing blankets, hurricane lamps, and kits containing soap, detergent, toothpaste and more. “We really needed the soap, because the place where we buy soap was destroyed,” says one woman. In addition to distributing items in villages near the southern coast like Pamalayan, CRS is also providing similar goods to local parishes in the town of Tasikmalaya.

With over 80,000 people reportedly left homeless by the quake, CRS is focusing on urgent needs like shelter and hygiene. “There are thousands of people who have nowhere to go, and no money to rebuild,” says Yenni Suryani, country team leader for CRS Indonesia. “We need to make sure that these vulnerable people are taken care of.”

Reported by Laura Sheahen, CRS regional information officer, Asia and the Pacific Rim.

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