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By boat to the tsunami-stricken Mentawai Islands

Indonesia, October 30, 2010

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Julisa Tambunan/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Photo: Julisa Tambunan/Mercy Corps

A sign of land, finally. I've been on the boat since I'm not quite sure when; I've lost track of days. I just remember that last Wednesday morning, Sean — our country director — ordered me to go to the tsunami-affected Mentawai Islands in West Sumatera...by boat.

Mercy Corps is distributing critical supplies to the survivors in the islands, about 24,000 people scattered and displaced across the area. The tsunami killed at least 400 inhabitants of the islands. So there I went, sailing with 500 jerry cans and 500 shelter kits to Mentawai. I have been on this very boat for about 60 hours now, with only one stop in Padang. The boat is also carrying relief goods from numbers of organizations from Jakarta and Padang.

It's really hard to reach the Mentawai Islands. The weather has not gotten any better after that 7.7 Richter scale earthquake last Tuesday, and the tsunami that soon followed. These islands are remote. Because of the weather, planes could not get here, boats were forced to go back and responses are slow.

So here I am now, standing at the deck of the boat with Sikakap — Mentawai's main island — not far in front of me. Two of our people are waiting there. I bet the 60 hours on the boat will mean nothing now. I'm going into the battlefield.