INDONESIA God I will never forget the sound

 Emergency Response
 7th Oct 2009

By Wiwik Widyastuti, Padang Pariaman, West Sumatra

Zaimarti is sitting on the corner of a wooden bench in front of what used to be her home, finishing her lunch – instant noodles with some rice. It’s the same menu she’s had for the past five days, for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The 42-year-old recalls the day of the quake with horror. “We were in the kitchen and we heard a loud cracking sound. Suddenly, the earth was shaking. I called my children in panic, telling them to go outside. And the sound, God, I will never forget the sound of my floor cracking. After that, water come up from underneath.”

Zaimarti lives with her two children, 14-year old Fernando, and 6-year old Uci, in a modest brick home. Her husband, Chairul Anwar, works as a part-time driver in the city of Padang.

With their house located not far from the shores of the Indian Ocean, Marni, Zaimarti’s 60-year-old mother who lives next door, really fears a tsunami. “Without thinking, we ran to the hill, fearing a tsunami would come and wash all of us away, just like it did in Aceh,” says Marni.

Zaimarti and her family, along with many neighbours, spent the night in the open air on the hill. When morning arrived, they returned from the hill to their damaged homes.

“It was a horrifying scene, seeing our house destroyed. We even had not yet finished building it, and now it is gone,” says Zaimarti, holding Uci in her arms. Her mother’s house is also destroyed so the big family has no other place to stay. “We do not know what will happen next. My children cannot go to school because the schools are also damaged.”

The earthquake also damaged their well, so there is little access to clean water. “After the earthquake, the well is just empty. All the water is gone – all that is left is sand,” she says. “Not only the well. Our kitchen and bathroom are also destroyed. We take debris from the house and use it for fire wood to cook.”

Zaimarti, her mother and children are now living in tents in front of their house. They are afraid to stay in the ruins of their home, as the building could collapse with only a small shake. Almost all of their belongings are gone. Little could be saved.

“I can not imagine how we can rebuild our house, says Zamiarti. “We barely have money to buy food, let alone rebuild the house. I hope someone will help us.”

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