Earthquake in Padang: One Survivor’s Story

When Indonesia’s latest deadly earthquake struck on September 30, 45-year-old Lili was in her home with her mother in the village of Cumanak, Padang Pariaman district. As the ground rumbled violently, she struggled to get the two of them to the door and out of the house. Within minutes, the quake unleashed landslides. Lili watched as her entire village became engulfed in mud. She and her 65-year-old mother took cover back in their home. “We stayed there for 15 hours, trapped without food or water.”

Eventually Lili, her mother, and Lili’s brother, who lived nearby, managed to escape their homes and walk through waist-high mud to reach higher ground. Once there, after an hour of climbing, they were able to see the full scope of the destruction. Lili says she was among only 26 people in her village who had survived. Two other nearby villages were destroyed in the landslides.

Lili says she is traumatized by what has happened. “I cannot bear to return to my village,” she says. “I have trouble sleeping and eating.”

She says talking with International Medical Corps health workers helps ease her mind. But when she returns to her tent where she is temporarily living the thoughts of that horrible event haunt her.

Before the quake, Lili worked as an elementary school teacher. School has not resumed and she says two of her students are still missing.

It has been difficult for her and the others who are displaced to access clean water. She says that right after the quake there were only two sources of potable water. Villagers had to walk 30 minutes each way to find clean water. Usually it was the women and children who collected the water, while men continued the search for the missing, or helped with food distributions. There are still some markets with food available, including vegetables, rice, noodles, and biscuits for babies. But they are accessible only by foot or motorcycles. Relief groups, like International Medical Corps, have also been providing food.

Lili says the International Medical Corps health post set up in the displacement camp has helped her get the medical attention she needs. Mobile medical units have been reaching out to more remote communities but she worries about those who are sick and may not have been reached. “Most people are still afraid, they have trauma and are reluctant to venture outside.”

For now, she sees the community’s most pressing needs as shelter – and a place where people can pray; clean water for cooking, washing and bathing; more comprehensive medical facilities; and a school that can remain open for students.

Despite the ordeal and the difficult conditions under which she is now living, Lili is grateful she and her mother are still alive. “All I can do is keep praying and hoping the conditions will return to normal as soon as possible.”

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