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Indonesian churches respond amid tsunami destruction

More than 1,400 people are so far confirmed to have died, and more than 70,000 people displaced, when a six-metre-high tsunami hit Palu on Friday 28 September. The death toll is expected to continue to rise.

Written by Tearfund | 03 Oct 2018

Indonesia Tsunami

Rev Krise Gosal, currently in Palu – the city hardest hit in the tsunami – witnessed buildings and churches full of people disappear into ‘liquid earth’. Despite this, she and other church leaders are determined to help those in greatest need.

‘We are asking our church networks to share the burden of the sufferings by donating food, tents and other supplies as well as funds,’ says Rev Krise. ‘Churches in Indonesia are uniting with one heart to express their solidarity with the people in Palu, Donggala and Sigi.’

More than 1,400 people are so far confirmed to have died, and more than 70,000 people displaced, when a six-metre-high tsunami hit Palu on Friday 28 September. The death toll is expected to continue to rise. 

Rev Krise, Vice General Secretary of the National Communion of Churches in Indonesia, visited the Sigi region and witnessed horrifying scenes of destruction: roads, destroyed, bridges collapsed and infrastructure destroyed. But it was the loss of human life that hit hardest – as the soil became liquid.

‘I watched the church building in Jono’oge move away and disappear into the mud. The retreat centre was also swallowed in the mud and there were about 140 young people inside it at the time. They’d been at Bible camp. Only 40 people survived. Other church leaders told me how in Toboli, houses and a maternity clinic were literally sucked into the ground.’

Church leaders here are still looking for their families and congregations, as well as their neighbours. They are having to bury the dead. Survivors are hungry and need clean water to drink. Babies are crying for milk.

Despite this, Tearfund’s network of churches and Christian partners are determined to help at this crucial time. ‘Neighbouring churches further south have collected contributions from their interfaith communities, such as water, dry-foods, rice, clothes, baby supplies. But it is still very hard to get past landslides and damaged roads with supplies and the loss of lives is devastating.’

Tearfund’s partners have also deployed medical teams to the affected areas – including emergency doctors and nurses and an orthopaedic surgeon. Another team will include a midwife. One church partner has opened an emergency shelter in Immanuel High School, Palu, but those serving in the centre are still too traumatised to sleep inside for fear of aftershocks.

‘Tearfund is deeply saddened to see the devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami that has hit Indonesia,’ says Oenone Chadburn, Tearfund’s Head of Humanitarian Support. ‘We are supporting church networks in their locally-led response and deploying expert assistance where appropriate and in coordination with the international response.

‘Without a swift humanitarian response and unless water and sanitation facilities are reestablished there is a high risk of disease outbreaks, especially now that Indonesia is entering a season of heavy rain.’

Tearfund has launched an appeal as part of the Disasters Emergency Committee.

In the unlikely event that we raise more than is needed to support these partners, your gift will be spent on similar emergency responses and to prevent the impact of disasters on other vulnerable communities.

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Written by  Tearfund

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