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Surviving the disaster—and the following days and weeks—in Indonesia

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Aina, 45, prepares a meal at her emergency shelter outside Palu. Aina has been living at the camp, where Oxfam has installed clean water facilities, since the powerful earthquake struck September 28, 2018. Rosa Panggabean/Oxfam

People tell Oxfam staff incredible stories of survival as we provide clean water and other aid.

Heny and her mother were selling food at their stand near Soki Soki bay, not far from the Ponulele Bridge near Palu City. It was a busy day and business was good, she says, when a magnitude 5.9 earthquake shook the area. It startled people but soon passed. The next temblor four hours later was the big one: magnitude 7.4. Huge waves, nearly 20 feet high from the resulting tsunami, crashed through the area, causing panic and confusion.

Heny says she took her mother by the hand. “We ran,” she says, “but the water goes faster.” They made it to the Ponulele Bridge, where she encouraged her mother to hold on. “Come on, mum,” she told her. “You are strong.”

They clung to the bridge and survived, somehow. Heny says she still does not know how they did it. “This is a miracle. We're still safe, and we will not waste it,” she says.

Help for the displaced

The earthquake and resulting tsunami on Sulawesi Island on September 28th killed more than 2,000 people. In the end of November, Oxfam staff are reporting the government estimates that 17,000 families need ongoing emergency shelter support, and longer-term assistance to relocate to new homes.

Heny and her mother are among them. They are living in an evacuation area in West Palu, where Heny is helping to coordinate assistance for others like her who have been displaced by the disaster. Since the days immediately following the earthquake and tsunami, Oxfam and our local partners on Sulawesi Island have been helping survivors with clean water, essential for preventing disease outbreaks that can kill many more people than an earthquake or tsunami.

 Oxfam staff on Sulawesi are reporting that the organization along with our partners has reached more than 90,400 people with assistance.

Survivors displaced by the September earthquake and tsunami carry water at a camp just outside Palu. Hariandi Hafid/Oxfam

Clean water

Oxfam and our partners are distributing chemicals to treat water (known as “Aquatabs”) and installing water filters on wells to ensure water is safe for people to drink. We also established 33 water distribution points, trucking water to these areas when needed. In total, by the end of November Oxfam has produced 3.2 million liters (about 832,000 gallons) of water. Oxfam and our partners have also constructed more than 100 temporary and semi-permanent latrines and repaired water pipes.

Hygiene kits, shelter, and clothing

To help people keep clean and avoid diseases, Oxfam and our partners are distributing hygiene kits that contain soap, toothbrushes, towels, shampoo, diapers, and other items. We also help promote good hygiene at public events, encouraging children to wash their hands after using the toilet, for example. With the support of local partners, we have distributed 17, 709 hygiene kits.

Oxfam and our partners continue to distribute tarps people can use for temporary shelter (nearly 2,000 so far), and more than 1,000 sarongs for clothing.

Oxfam staff in Indonesia report that they intend to reach between 400,000 and 500,000 individuals in the 18 months following the earthquake and tsunami.


You can support Oxfam’s efforts to provide assistance to survivors of the earthquake in Indonesia.

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