Indonesia tsunami: What do you do when all is destroyed?

A woman salvages belongings from damaged buildings in Petobo village

CARE staff reporting from the earthquake-affected areas of Palu and Donggala on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi said today:

We are still getting aftershocks on a regular basis and the rainy season has now started. People are still sleeping out in the open as they are scared to go back to their homes and they are very worried about the spread of diseases like diarrhoea.

Man and woman salvaging belongings from damaged buildings
Nirmala (above right) works with her husband, Feris, to collect usable things from their home
Woman surrounded by damaged buildings and earthquake crater
Nirmala looks at a framed picture that she collected from her destroyed house
People crossing earthquake-damaged urban landscape
A damaged area in Balaroa village, Palu, which was affected by liquefaction following the earthquake

Much of the area has been affected by liquefaction – a phenomenon caused by the shaking of the ground during an earthquake, which breaks up the soil and, combining with groundwater, turns previously solid earth into something like quicksand, causing buildings and other structures to shift and move.

People carry belongings across earthquake-damaged road
People carrying belongings across a landscape destroyed by liquefaction

CARE staff on the ground said:

People are most terrified of this liquefaction phenomenon, more than the earthquake itself and the aftershocks. Imagine watching your house shift 300 metres right in front of you. People told us it looks like a wave when it moves.

Man sitting in ruins of damaged buildings
Muhammad Nur sits in front of his destroyed house in Petobo village. His house had shifted around 300 metres from its original location due to liquefaction

They say – if you are outside then you are safe from the earthquake, but if liquefaction happens it can get you even outside; there is nowhere that is safe. People are very worried another big quake will cause more liquefaction and they will have nowhere to go, nowhere left to run to.

Man carrying beam from area of damaged buildings
A man carrying a beam from an area of destroyed houses

The situation is becoming increasingly desperate. CARE staff said:

There are already some cases of fever and other illnesses. The rainy season also means there are more mosquitos, and this is especially bad for the young children sleeping outside without any mosquito nets.

People – women in particular – are telling us their big worries are things like milk for their babies, being able to go back to their houses and rebuilding after all this destruction.

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Woman looking out over area of damaged buildings
A woman surveys the devastation of the village that used to be her home
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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.