Lombok, a famous tourist destination in the southeastern Indonesian Archipelago, was hit by a 6.4-magnitude earthquake early in the morning on 29th July 2018. As many as 5,448 houses were destroyed in the disaster, which left 10,062 people homeless. The hardest hit areas were the towns of Sembalun and Sambelia, located in eastern Lombok.
Most of the buildings constructed in Lombok lack a solid foundation due to the soft nature of the soil, which mostly composed of fine-grained bauxite and clay. Hence, the buildings are vulnerable to severe impacts from earthquakes. In the aftermath of an earthquake in 2013, Tzu Chi Indonesia built 29 permanent houses for the disaster victims. Fortunately, these houses remained intact after the recent earthquake.
Emergency cash relief for earthquake victims
On 31st July, two days after the earthquake struck, a team of four Tzu Chi volunteers from Jakarta departed for Lombok to assess the disaster situation. After they arrived, the volunteers first met up with the local police. Eka Fathurrahman, the head of the police station in East Nusa Tenggara (NTB), said, "I hope more charitable organisations will give us help, because the situation here is really bad."
The volunteers subsequently arrived at a hard-hit area and spent the whole day travelling around the island to assess the disaster situation and the practical needs of those affected. They learned that every household whose house sustained serious damage would be given a subsidy of IDR 50 million (est. SDG 4,690) by the Indonesian government to rebuild their house. They also noticed that the shelters have already received abundant relief supplies from various other organisations.
Yang Chang Yao, the leader of the disaster assessment team said that initially, the team wanted to provide canvas sheets, towels and blankets to the disaster victims, but discovered that they already have enough of these items. Thus, Tzu Chi decided to distribute emergency cash relief to the badly injured victims, as they would be without an income for a period of time since they would not be able to work for several months while recovering.
Calming the traumatized with emotional support
The residents were mostly sound asleep when the earthquake struck. When the volunteers were giving comfort and support to the traumatized victims, many of the latter revealed that they were so afraid that they did not dare to stay indoors.
A 17-year-old victim, Rian, shared, “I was asleep when the earthquake occurred. I woke up in shock and dashed outside the house, but my lower back and hand were injured by a collapsing wall.”
The youth lost his consciousness while being trapped in the collapsed house. Fortunately, he was rescued from the rubble by his family and neighbours.
Rian, who comes from a poor family, was forced to drop out of school after completing junior high school as he has to help his family in the farm. After accepting the emergency cash from Tzu Chi volunteers, he said joyfully, “This money can be used to cover my medical expenses. I will be able to help my parents once again after I have recovered.”
Another victim, Zulfadli, was injured by his collapsing house after letting his children escape first when the earthquake hit. Zulfadli said that the cash aid he had received was very helpful to him as it could be used to pay for his medical expenses, children’s school fees, and some of the household expenses.
Volunteers respectfully handed out cash relief to each of the victims with both hands, and hoped that that the small gestures of kindness would warm the latter’s hearts in their difficult times.
Revisiting the homes constructed for quake victims 5 years ago
The next day, the volunteers visited the disaster victims in two local hospitals. During their two days in Lombok, they distributed emergency cash relief to 46 injured victims, with each receiving IDR 1.5 million (est. SDG140).
In the afternoon on the second day, the volunteers travelled to Kalipuncak to assess the condition of the houses constructed by Tzu Chi five years ago after an earthquake. They were happy and relieved to see that the buildings remained intact. A home owner happily told them that the houses built by Tzu Chi are very solid and able to withstand the impact of earthquakes. The locals appreciated the help from Tzu Chi so much that they were even reluctant to remove the celebration banner that had been hanging on the wall for five years.
More aid after a second earthquake struck
Unfortunately, Lombok was hit by another strong earthquake of magnitude 7 on 5th August 2018. The second earthquake killed over 460 people and left more than 1,300 injured. More than 42,000 houses were destroyed and numerous people were evacuated from their homes to shelters. Worried that the aftershocks might cause further damage to hospital buildings, the hospitals moved their beds to the roads or temporary tent shelters outside.
A tsunami warning was also issued by the government. Large numbers of people were seen frantically fleeing to higher grounds to escape the possible tsunami, causing serious traffic jams on the roads. Thousands of people crowded the Gili Trawangan port, hoping to leave Lombok and travel to a safer place.
While many were trying to leave the quake-stricken areas, Tzu Chi Indonesia formed a disaster relief team consisting of 20 volunteers and a 9-member medical team, who travelled to Lombok on a military aircraft in the afternoon on 7th August.
On the night of 6th August, Tzu Chi volunteers in Jakarta repacked 5 tons of rice into 10kg bags. Only military aircrafts were allowed to land at the airport in Lombok in the aftermath of the earthquake, and the amount of aid supplies that could be transported was limited. Tzu Chi’s aid consisted of 13 tons of relief supplies, including 5 tons of rice, 200 boxes of instant noodles, 10 tents, 10 foldable beds, and 300 kg of medicine.
Tzu Chi volunteer Hong Guang Tian said, “We have learned that the hospitals are filled with patients, so we are travelling to Lombok with a team of doctors. We will contact more orthopedic doctors for help should the need arise. Our volunteers are fully prepared for the mission, too.”
The military aircraft carrying Tzu Chi volunteers and the relief supplies had departed for Lombok on 7th August 2018. The disaster relief team planned to give each seriously injured victim IDR 2 million (est. SDG 187) and also provide hot food to the affected residents.