Indonesia’s President Visits Aceh Earthquake Survivors

Nurdin Hasan
Aceh, Indonesia
2016-12-09
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161209-ID-injured-620.jpg Faisal Marwan, center, and others await Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s arrival in Aceh province’s Pidie Jaya District, Dec. 9, 2016.
Nurdin Hasan/BenarNews

An exhausted Faisal Marwan limped into the grounds of the Taqarrub Mosque, a crutch under his right shoulder, and took a seat in the front row of chairs set up since early Friday morning.

He glanced at the mosque that had collapsed in a 6.5-magnitude earthquake that rocked western Indonesia’s Aceh province two days earlier. Then his eyes rested on hundreds of children, who were singing.

“I jumped from the second floor of the shop house in the Trieng Gadeng Market when the quake hit. I really panicked when I heard the rumble of the shop next door collapsing,” Faisal, 37, told BenarNews.

The earthquake, which killed 100 people and injured hundreds more, was so strong that he instantly woke from a deep sleep early Wednesday morning. His wife and three children also woke up.

In his confusion, he forgot where the stairs were. Driven by panic, he simply jumped.

His wife and children were trapped behind a wall of the next building that had collapsed into their space. A whole row of 13 shops had crumbled.

“At that moment, I didn’t feel pain. I just got up, and went up to get my wife and children,” he said, stroking his bandaged knee.

He had to remove debris to rescue his family, who were trapped between two walls, but not crushed.

“Thank Allah, my wife and three children were not hurt. But my wife is traumatized,” he said.

Because of her condition, the family has declined to stay with about 1,000 people in a shelter that has been set up nearby, and instead are staying with relatives.

The chief of Faisal’s village sent him to the mosque to be among earthquake survivors meeting President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who on Friday visited Trieng Gadeng, a sub-district of Pidie Jaya district devastated by the temblor.

“I was treated by the masseur. My leg’s not broken but I banged my knee when I jumped,” he said,

Faisal said the quake was not the first for him. He and his wife survived a 9.3-magnitude temblor followed by a massive tsunami in December 2004.

“During the tsunami, my wife was heavily pregnant with our first child. I carried her as we ran for high ground. Two weeks later, she gave birth,” he said.

His home at the time and hundreds of others in the coastal village of Pante Raja was obliterated by the tsunami. Two of his relatives were among the 170,000 people killed 12 year ago.

Presidential visit

During his visit to Trieng Gadeng, Jokowi promised that his government would rebuild Acehnese communities torn apart by the latest natural disaster.

“I’ve already decided that the mosque will be rebuilt as soon as possible, but we have to do it together, starting tomorrow,” he told the crowd.

The group of children welcomed the president with a song as he arrived at the Taqqarub mosque around 10 a.m. Onlookers gathered around as the president, flanked by his security detail, walked up to the children and shook hands with some of them.

He asked who had memorized the text of Pancasila, the nation’s five-pillared founding philosophy. One child came forward and recited its five principles.

“I hope you children keep the spirit of learning. Still keep singing too and always be happy,” Jokowi told them.

Survivors

Greeting the crowd, Jokowi handed out payments of 15 million rupiah (U.S. $1,125) to relatives of each victim who was killed in Wednesday’s earthquake.

One woman, 35-year-old Rhamawati, who lost her husband and two children in the quake, received 75 million rupiah (U.S. $3,375) in compensation from the president.

“Although I’m still sad for the disaster, I am glad that President Jokowi would come to us who are in mourning,” she told BenarNews.

On Thursday, officials lowered the death toll to 100 from 102 after Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency determined that the names of two victims had been recorded twice, according to the Associated Press.

The number of people displaced by the disaster, which damaged 10,534 buildings, surpassed 11,100 on Thursday, according to Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for the disaster agency.

Zulkifli, a village secretary in Kuta Pangwa, Trieng Gadeng, said 189 housing units there were damaged, forcing 860 people to sleep in makeshift tents.

“Fifteen people in my village died from the collapsed houses when the earthquake hit,” he told BenarNews.

Among those killed was a man named Suharnas, who was to be married on Thursday, and seven members of his family who were staying with him and planned to escort him to his wedding.

Yusra Fitriani, his fiancée, and her family learned that his home had collapsed. Her father rushed to the scene.

Instead of celebrating a wedding, Rajiati comforted her daughter.

“Stay strong my child, this is a test from God,” she said, according to Agence France-Presse.

People take pictures of Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo as he speaks near a group of children during his visit to earthquake-stricken Trieng Gadeng, a sub-district in Pidie Jaya, Aceh province, Dec. 9, 2016. [Nurdin Hasan/BenarNews]

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