November for the better

Indonesia, October 31, 2010

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  <span class="field-credit">
    courtesy of Tito/Save the Children  </span>
    A motorcycle eases across a temporary replacement for the tsunami-damaged bridge that linked the islands of North and South Pagai, Mentawai. Photo: courtesy of Tito/Save the Children

October was a busy month for Mercy Corps and for the people of West Sumatra.

I happened to follow nearly all of Mercy Corps' program activities last month, starting with the One-Year Commemoration Event of the devastating earthquake that hit West Sumatra Province on September 30, 2009. As a part of our disaster awareness campaign, we are constantly reminding people about the importance of having disaster risk awareness in mind. Here are some key events happened in October 2010:

  • October 13, 2010 — we had a clean-up day in Padang city, as a part of commemorating the International Disaster Risk Reduction Day. Around 350 people, ranging from fellow non-governmental organizations, government bodies and mountaineering clubs attended the event. The Vice Mayor of Padang City opened the event.
  • October 25, 2010 — an earthquake measuring 7.7 on the Richter scale hit the Pagai Selatan island of Mentawai. The earthquake was felt by the citizens of Padang and — remembering the last big earthquake — some people fled into higher ground. The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Body issued a tsunami warning, although withdrawn an hour later.
  • October 26, 2010 – we had a Padang City Earthquake and Tsunami Drill. This is in addition to the Padang City Evacuation Map that we distributed on September 30, 2010. Around 3,500 people joined this drill, despite the previous night's earthquake. That afternoon, preliminary reports from the tsunami Mentawai Islands arrived — and it was devastating. The government announced the emergency response to disaster, welcoming any help from the international community as well.
  • October 27, 2010 — Mercy Corps sent Wawan Budianto, who had experience working in Mentawai, to do the initial assessment for our emergency response. Arriving the next day, Wawan quickly gathered his old contacts to assess the situation.

In the next two days, three more Mercy Corps staff arrived — including two staff from Jakarta — with 500 tarps and 500 jerry cans to be distributed.

My heart goes to the people of Mentawai and all the emergency responders there. As of now, the unpredictable weather, lack of boats to transport supplies, and damaged infrastructure is making the response harder. In addition, the tsunami changed Mentawai's coastline, meaning that any boats going into the Mentawai's waters must pay highest attention.

With this article, I would like to ask all of you to send your positive energy both to the survivors and the emergency responders. Hopefully, things will get better this month.