Monday 16 September 2019

Water and medicine scarce for thousands of tsunami survivors

Fears of public health crisis after Indonesian disaster that left hundreds dead

Safe: Young tsunami survivors rest in a mosque in Tenjolahang, Banten. Photo: Sonny Tumbelaka/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
Safe: Young tsunami survivors rest in a mosque in Tenjolahang, Banten. Photo: Sonny Tumbelaka/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Dewi Loveard

Charity workers are scrambling to avoid a public health crisis in the wake of the Indonesian tsunami that killed at least 429 people as supplies of medicine and clean water dwindle.

Doctors working to limit the fallout from the tsunami that devastated the west coast of Java have warned that children are falling ill and becoming dehydrated. Thousands of survivors left homeless are living scattered among several buildings rather than in a single rescue area, making it harder to target support.

There are even fears the region could be hit by more deadly waves, bringing new chaos to an area already covered by mountains of overturned cars, boats, furniture and other debris.

More than 1,400 people were injured by the tsunami and at least 154 remain missing, raising fears that the death toll could increase further in the coming days. Overstretched aid workers are torn between supporting survivors or clearing bodies. Some raised warnings about what they were seeing on the ground.

Rizal Alimin, a doctor working for NGO Aksi Cepat Tanggap based at a local school turned temporary shelter, said: "A lot of the children are sick with fevers, headaches and they haven't had enough water. We have less medicine than usual [and] there isn't enough clean water. They need food and people are sleeping on the floor."

Riefian Fajarsyah, the lead singer of Seventeen - a band that was struck by the tsunami mid-concert - buried his wife, Dylan Sahara, on Tuesday. On Instagram, he wrote: "Please send prayers for my wife Dylan so she will be at peace."

Mr Fajarsyah, the only surviving member of the band, apologised for missing the funerals of his dead friends while searching for his wife. "Be peaceful there, guys," Mr Fajarsyah wrote in a series of posts on social media. "We will not forget you, and we will keep sending our prayers. See you. Until next time."

Rescuers are working in an atmosphere of fear amid concern that the ongoing volcanic eruption of Anak Krakatau could set off another tsunami, with high swells triggering false alarms and a partial evacuation of journalists and NGO workers yesterday.

Indonesian authorities are co-ordinating the delivery of vital aid via land and sea, with Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, head of the national disaster agency's public relations centre, tweeting videos yesterday showing medical supply boats and rescue ships en route to the disaster-struck coasts of West Java and Southern Sumatra.

Meanwhile, the Tanjung Lesung Beach Hotel has emerged as a scene of utter devastation. More than 100 people have so far been found dead on its grounds, the death toll accumulating by several dozen each day, according to the resort's safety manager, who asked to be identified only as Ronny.

Ronny was forced to watch as a series of four massive surges swept away everyone involved in a family gathering for members of the state-run power company PLN from a beachfront resort. The site was popular for its views of Krakatoa, but the placement of a company banner obscured the view out to the sea, ensuring the crowd had no warning of the wave-strike.

PLN staffer Didiek Fauzi Dahlan told of being smashed 500 metres in the initial swell, clawing at coconut trees before being washed up momentarily on a roof, only to be re-submerged when the structure collapsed beneath him.

In the dark and the cold of the waves, Mr Dahlan struggled to find his family, tracing the voice of his eldest daughter Narnia to rescue her, before tiredness and warnings of another wave forced him to abandon the search.

"I just gave up," he said. "I expected I would meet my wife and my youngest the next morning."

The next day, Mr Dahlan's driver discovered the bodies of his employer's wife and child among those left behind by the tide.

Irish Independent

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