Re­cov­ery fal­ters in In­done­sian city bro­ken by quake dis­as­ter

Sun.Star Pampanga - - WORLD! -

Ponce sat ma­jes­ti­cally on pil­lars in Palu Bay. Peo­ple look­ing for valu­ables pick through a vast jumble of per­sonal be­long­ings and house de­bris, all that’s left of once thriv­ing com­mu­ni­ties.

In Sigi district bor­der­ing Palu, sev­eral dozen white tents em­bla­zoned with the U.N. refugee agency’s logo are home to hun­dreds of evac­uees, who look with envy and anger at tem­po­rary hous­ing across the road — some of it oc­cu­pied, some empty and some still un­fin­ished.

Dur­ing the day, the tents are blaz­ing hot and at night refugees, who in­clude a man in­ca­pac­i­tated by a stroke and a boy with cere­bral palsy, shiver. Frus­trated residents re­call that not long af­ter the dis­as­ter Vice Pres­i­dent Jusuf Kalla vis­ited and promised they’d soon get money to help rebuild their lives. In­stead things seem to be get­ting worse.

They have clean drink­ing wa­ter, but a mo­bile kitchen pro­vided by an aid group closed due to lack of do­na­tions. Mem­bers of some fam­i­lies have jobs, but oth­ers have al­most noth­ing, their for­mer liveli­hoods gone. Some beg for money.

Zahra, the mother of eight, said she hopes the gov­ern­ment fi­nally ful­fills its promise.

“Have mercy on us,” she said.

Of­fi­cially, about 173,000 peo­ple were dis­placed by the dis­as­ter and about 20,000 are still liv­ing in tents that Palu’s mayor says were de­signed to last three months. The ac­tual num­ber with­out sta­ble hous­ing is much higher.

At a block of eight build­ings built by a char­i­ta­ble foun­da­tion run by Kalla’s busi­ness em­pire, a ban­ner an­nounced they were handed over to the city on Feb. 14. All sit empty and un­con­nected to util­i­ties, the only sign of life a few cows graz­ing

be­tween them.

Tem­po­rary hous­ing built nearby by another or­ga­ni­za­tion is oc­cu­pied, some by residents of a neigh­bor­hood wiped out by liq­ue­fac­tion.

Umira, who uses a sin­gle name, wept as she re­called the or­deal her fam­ily has en­dured since the night they fled a sea of mov­ing trees and houses. Eight of her rel­a­tives were killed, in­clud­ing her grand­son.

They’ve gone from shel­ter­ing in a sports sta­dium to fash­ion­ing their own makeshift lodg­ing in the ru­ins of a house to fi­nally be­ing as­signed to a room in a tem­po­rary hous­ing unit.

“We all cried with hap­pi­ness,” she said of the mo­ment two months ago when they learned they would have hous­ing. “Even my hus­band cried and hugged the wall of our new home.”

The fam­ily still gets aid, Umira said, such as sta­ple foods and cook­ing oil, though it’s dis­trib­uted with­out any pre­dictable sched­ule.

When the aid runs out they rely on in­come from run­ning an on-call mo­tor­cy­cle taxi ser­vice.

“If there is a call, we can eat,” she said. “If not, we will only eat rice with salt.”

Pres­ley Tam­pub­olon, the head of Palu’s dis­as­ter agency who over­sees tem­po­rary hous­ing, said the need for ac­com­mo­da­tion has been greater than an­tic­i­pated.

For ev­ery house de­stroyed or dam­aged, there would of­ten be sev­eral gen­er­a­tions of a fam­ily liv­ing in it. He said it would be “in­hu­man” to ex­pect such fam­i­lies to fit into the 3-me­ter-by-4-me­ter (10-foot-by-13-foot) rooms that have been built.

He said the gov­ern­ment and aid groups have built tem­po­rary build­ings with 5,300 to­tal rooms that can ac­com­mo­date nearly 41,000 peo­ple. But about 1,600 of those rooms are empty be­cause they weren’t con­nected to wa­ter, elec­tric­ity or san­i­ta­tion, he said.

Hi­dayat, the mayor of Palu who uses a sin­gle name, said the cen­tral gov­ern­ment has stopped build­ing tem­po­rary homes de­spite the need and con­struc­tion of per­ma­nent dwellings hasn’t started.

Com­pound­ing the prob­lem is that the cen­tral gov­ern­ment’s so­cial af­fairs and pub­lic works min­istries haven’t re­leased “mourn­ing al­lowances” and funds for peo­ple to build new homes.

He said he’s wor­ried anger will soon boil over.

The so­cial af­fairs min­istry’s direc­tor of so­cial pro­tec­tion and dis­as­ter vic­tims, Margo Wiy­ono, said the min­istry has ver­i­fied 1,906 of the 4,400 names of heirs who would be en­ti­tled to mourn­ing al­lowances and has pro­posed the fi­nance min­istry pay them.

He said they were still in­ves­ti­gat­ing the rest.

“We don’t want the al­lowances worth 15 mil­lion ru­piah ($1,050) per heir to fall into the hands of ir­re­spon­si­ble peo­ple,” he said.

The bud­get direc­tor-gen­eral at the fi­nance min­istry, Askolani, said it’s in the process of ap­prov­ing money to pay the al­lowances. He said re­leas­ing funds for new hous­ing is con­tin­gent on sev­eral fac­tors, in­clud­ing re­view­ing lo­cal gov­ern­ment data and identifying ar­eas for new set­tle­ments that are safe from liq­ue­fac­tion.

Hi­dayat isn’t wait­ing. He said the Tzu Chi Bud­dhist Foun­da­tion has agreed to build 3,000 new homes in the Palu area, but he is urg­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions and lo­cal gov­ern­ments from around the coun­try to build more.

“Our re­gional ca­pa­bil­i­ties are very lim­ited,” he said. “As the mayor, I’m beg­ging for help to many hu­man­i­tar­ian groups and in­sti­tu­tions.”

ALU, In­done­sia (AP) — Six months af­ter Palu was ripped apart by an earth­quake, tsunami and liq­ue­fy­ing soil that sucked neigh­bor­hoods into the earth and killed thou­sands, a se­cond cri­sis is loom­ing as re­cov­ery ef­forts stum­ble and a city that feels ig­nored begs for hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance.

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