Latest News > Monitoring Visit to Palu, Central Sulawesi Monitoring Visit to Palu, Central Sulawesi


30 September 2019


''A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal'' – Steve Maraboli

Last September 28, an earthquake shook Sulawesi and triggered a calamitous tsunami. The villages of Palu were hardest hit with thousands of homes and buildings either flattened by the earthquake and tidal waves or swallowed by mud from soil liquefaction with the official count being 4,340 dead and 667 missing.

Together with Mercy Relief, we revisited one of the many ‘red zones’ of the liquefaction sites. Amidst the picturesque mountains, one could see the wasteland peppered with pockets of weed and coconut trees - an outcome of the devastation. What was once a bustling village rich with agricultural land are now scarred remnants of unstable soil. Villagers lost their livelihood as nothing further could be done in these 'red zones'.

At the onset of the disaster, we partnerered with Mercy Relief and provided emergency relief items such as the provision of medicine, water, shelter kits and generators while post-relief, both Mercy Relief and Yayasan PKPA are working on develeping School-Based Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) Programmes which includes training of teachers, parents and public officials on DRR, inclusion of DRR curriculum in pre and primary schools with teaching methods consisting of storytelling, and song & dance.

We dropped by two of the schools in the village affected by the earthquake & liquefaction, with the first destination being Sekolah PAUD (Pendidikan Anak Usia Dini) Anantovea, a kindergarten. Along with the 31 students, parents (especially mothers) are encouraged to accompany and co-participate while looking after their children, so that they too could benefit from the DRR lessons that are being taught.

A school-based DRR program was adopted to spread knowledge through the teachers and students. While the students may come and go, the teachers retain the knowledge for the next batch of students. As such, it is imperative that teachers go through the proper training as well.

We have made this possible through funding and donations, together with partnerships with Yayasan PKPA, and had the pleasure of interacting with these teachers to witness their training in action. We saw the teachers attending a two-day course on 'Being Evacuation Ready.' They were grouped to come up with solutions regarding what they learnt and to present their findings.

We also visited Masjid Apung Arqam Baburahman, an iconic floating mosque in Talise Beach, which previously stood on concrete stilts just 20m from the shoreline was one of the buildings which suffered damages due to the Tsunami last year. It left the mosque half submerged and tilted to one side, while the main roads around the beach are still littered with rubble and damaged structures.

Previously, the beach would be packed with 30-40 food-cart vendors, with tourists & locals alike. Now it is virtually deserted as people are still traumatised by the tsunami and stories of residents claiming they heard “cries of help” along the empty beaches.

Petobo village was where one of the worst liquefaction occured. When the strong earthquake shook Palu, violent tremors underground caused groundwater to move and seep into soil pores with high pressure. The sudden pressure to the soil pores caused the particles to disperse, losing its strength, turning into mud, thus bringing down any building above it. As we walked down buckled roads, displaced land & ruins, we saw first-hand, the magnitude of the devastation.

Building houses on soil that are prone to liquefaction is dangerous and not allowed. As such, measures are in place to ensure that they find the most suitable land for new settlement. Like Mr Nuim and his family, only a handful of people are still living in the Petobo village. While they await the permanent land from the government, the survivors are placed in temporary shelters called “Huntara".

As the name suggests, these allocated accommodation are temporary as displaced survivors await the government to identify stable land for more permanent settlements. Currently several lands for permanent settlement have been identified and redevelopment works have begun from scratch. They are building essential services such as electricity, network lines and pipes, among others, before any settlement can move in.

We could not help but notice how the people were still hopeful of the future and thankful for all the help given even though they had lost so much. It made us even more determined to see what else we could do and hope the DRR program implementation in Palu would be a successful one.