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Sometimes more than meets the eye

Indonesia, October 4, 2009

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Malka Older/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Mercy Corps emergency team member Tasyrif (right, wearing ID badge) talking to villagers outside a severely-damaged school near Padang. Photo: Malka Older/Mercy Corps

In Padang city the damage is dramatic, extreme — huge buildings collapsed into rubble, the second story signs grazing the sidewalk. In Padang Pariaman, the district just to the north of Padang City, the damage is everywhere. Driving north, you see the occasional flattened house besides the road, but then notice that every house is missing something. A corner, a façade. Some look untouched and then, as you draw closer, you notice the jagged crack that means no one should go under that roof again.

Going to see some of the communities that Mercy Corps has been working with for a year, we turned off the main road and drove down a barely paved track. There were palm trees, paddy fields and ruined houses. Families sat on the steps or in front rooms that no longer had front walls. In some places the colors were oddly festive, as families had brought out tents, normally used for wedding celebrations, as shelter from the rain and sun as they sleep outside the pile of bricks that was their home.

We passed a C-shaped school, the middle classrooms completely flattened, paddy fields glowing emerald on the other side. At another school, where Mercy Corps has worked with the children teaching them about disasters and what to do, we stopped to get out and look. The teachers’ room had lost a corner, but the newer classrooms looked all right.

Then the people took us around the back. The wall of the school bowed outwards at a frightening angle.

As we continue to venture out into the more remote areas around Padang, we're learning more about what needs to be done.