Signs of Devastation Scar Central Sulawesi a Year After Twin Disaster

Keisyah Aprilia
Palu, Indonesia

Survivors of an earthquake and tsunami, which battered Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi province on Sept. 28, 2018, live with visible signs that little has changed a year later.

Locations hit hardest by the double disaster have not been rebuilt, leading some residents to paint their names on sites where their homes stood at this time last year.

The iconic floating mosque, a landmark of Palu city, has yet to be rebuilt after the tsunami destroyed concrete columns that held it above sea level.

In Balaroa village, where homes were swallowed by mud in a phenomenon known as liquefaction, the devastation remains visible. None of the destroyed homes have been rebuilt. The village has been declared a disaster area, meaning survivors must move to safer locations.

And in Poboya sub-district, a mass grave where victims of the earthquake and tsunami were buried is marked with tombstones, which bear the names of the dead. Each afternoon, survivors and other visitors crowd the site to offer prayers for loved ones.

Nearly 16,000 people affected by the disaster live in tents within the camps in the Palu area, while another 1,339 people stay with relatives and need housing, according to the coordinator of Sulteng Bergerak, a coalition of civil society groups.

Survivors count their blessings.

“Worldly possessions can be gained, but lives lost cannot be recovered. Thank God we all survived,” said Marhamah, who lives in a tent with her husband and four children.

A BenarNews staffer returned to Palu earlier this month to photograph changes in the region.

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