Corrugated sheets, twisted windowpanes, and concrete rubble littered streets where many buildings once stood in the city of Mamuju on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island. A shallow 6.2-magnitude earthquake rattled the island just after midnight on Friday as many people slept.
Nurwardi, manager of operations at Mamuju’s West Sulawesi General Hospital—the only clinic that survived the earthquake—said people steadily flocked to makeshift tents to receive care. “Many patients do not want to be treated inside the hospital because they’re worried about another quake,” he told the AFP news agency. “Many need surgery but we have limited resources and medicine.”
The earthquake killed at least 90 people, the majority of them in Mamuju, and nearly 300 others sustained serious injuries. Aid workers this week continued to search for survivors and try to access cut-off villages. The quake came in the wake of several other disasters in the country, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
The earthquake destroyed more than 1,000 homes and other buildings, including the governor’s office and a shopping mall in Mamuju. Thousands of people slept outdoors this week for fear of aftershocks. Nearly 30,000 displaced people moved to shelters in Mamuju and its neighboring district of Majene.
A father of three who identified himself as Robert told the Associated Press he was at Mamuju’s Mitra Manakarra hospital when the earthquake began. The rattling bed woke him up, and he pulled out the drip from his hand before running out. “I cried when I saw the hospital where I was being treated collapse with people still inside,” he said. “I could have died if I got out late.”
Didi Hamzar, the disaster agency’s director of preparedness, said rescuers have pulled at least 18 survivors from collapsed buildings. The region set up a navy hospital ship and field health centers to bolster the medical response. The International Red Cross deployed seven ambulances and first-aid teams to the region. Mark Baker, the director of disaster response with Water Mission, told me his team also sent in a mobile unit to deliver clean water to affected communities. The aid group is also assessing the needs before setting up permanent water treatment systems.
Doni Monardo, Indonesia’s disaster agency chief, said authorities would set up COVID-19 testing sites at the camps. Indonesia has recorded more than 927,000 infections and more than 26,000 deaths, the highest in Southeast Asia. Security officers patrolling with loudspeakers reminded people to observe health protocols as markets and gas stations slowly reopened this week.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo mobilized the military and police to aid the rescue and relief operations and pledged more government support during a Tuesday visit to Mamuju: “Soon the central government will rebuild, then for collapsed houses, the government will help for those that were heavily damaged.”
The archipelago nation sits on the “Ring of Fire,” an arch of fault lines in the Pacific Basin, and experiences frequent earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis.
Other disasters have struck the country as well. On Monday, Widodo visited southern regions on Borneo island, where flooding last week killed at least 15 people and forced thousands of people to flee their homes. On Jan. 9, a deadly landslide on Java island buried about 40 people. The same day, a Sriwijaya Air jet crashed into the Java Sea, killing all 62 people on board.
“The people of Indonesia inspire the world community as an example of extraordinary resilience,” said Dr. Vlatko Uzevski, emergency response leader for the nonprofit Project HOPE, which is also responding in Sulawesi.