I am in Palu right now. This morning I visited some locations where the earthquake left great destruction.

There are three locations where the ground experience liquefaction. “Soil liquefaction occurs when a saturated or partially saturated soil substantially loses strength and stiffness in response to an applied stress such as shaking during an earthquake or other sudden change in stress condition, in which material that is ordinarily a solid behaves like a liquid.” (Cf. Wikipedia).

Petobo that I visited yesterday was one of the villages affected by the liquefaction. Petobo is a village of more than 700 families. When the liquification took place, the mud and water came out from the surface of the ground. The ground was stirred and slowly quacking; then all of sudden it carried away all their houses and properties from 300 to 700 meters away from its original position. Some houses, buildings, and people were literally and relentlessly swallowed by the ground. Today, Petobo with no more structures standing is just like a century old cemetery where no more markers left to identify who those are left behind.

Jono is another area where houses, buildings, and roads were completely deleted from the surface. Jono is used to be a plain surface whose geophysical characteristic at present has changed into small hills due to soil accumulation brought about liquefaction. The roads suffered deep cuts and cracks where on the one side is elevated and the other is completely lowered. Still in Jono, in one area where there were houses and the big road, which connects, to the city is now replaced with coconut and corn farm. These farms were originally located 1-2 kilometers away.

With this condition, comparing to Lombok in which I was there doing relief operations, the Palu earthquake is beyond comparison. In Lombok, survivors stayed in the evacuation sites; built temporary tents just beside their houses; some have started rebuilding their houses on the original site. While in Palu, many are gone to other places; most likely they have to be relocated far from the epicenter in a safer place. This will cause big adjustment on the lives and livelihood of the people. As of now, constant tremors due to aftershocks are felt and caused some panics to people.

There are fewer survivors in the temporary evacuation sites. Many had moved out already from the region to other cities or islands due to immense fear and trauma. Many of those whom I encountered are the humanitarian and rescue personnel and volunteers. You need to search really the survivors.

The city is still paralyzed. Stores are destroyed or closed. No business is opened at present. Relief goods are purchased in other cities, like Makasar or Manado. It takes 12 to 24 hours to transfer the goods from these cities to Palu.

The Camillians are doing an assessment of needs from the different heavily impacted sites. I tried to reach and find them; listen to them in order to gather information regarding their priority needs.

While doing this assessment, a group came to the operation base of Fr. Romo Joy Derry Ketua led by some local public officials appealing for help since it was only today that access to these villages is opened. Based on their reports of the current situation where there are over 700 families excluding other nearby villages, the Camillians commit to assist them as requested by Fr. Joy.

In collaboration with the Economic and Social Commission (PSE) of the Diocese of Manado, through its director Fr. Joy, I organized some volunteers to deepen the initial assessment of needs reported. Relief operation will be scheduled soon in these areas in coordination with PSE. At present, the people need urgently the following: tents, rice, sugar, milk, pampers, blanket, mat, soap (personal and common uses), clothes, and generators.

The team will prepare a pack of goods and supplied enough for a week for each family. Each pack will consist of 10kgs. of rice, 2 liters of cooking oil, 1kg. of sugar, and 20 packs of noodles. Each pack will cost 150.000,00 rupees (10 euros). There are approximately 2.000 families in Pipikoro district as identified by the district chairman.

Fr. Andi Suparman, MI,
Reporting from Palu