Lombok Earthquake: Eight Days Later

Mathilde Hutagaol | August 21, 2018

Night falls at Rembiga camp. Photo: CWS

“I live near the beach. I am too afraid to go back to my house right now – that’s why I stayed with my two sons here in the camp. My husband is a fisherman. He went fishing today but only caught 10 fish, which isn’t enough to be sold to buy milk for my sons.”

– Ibu Eli, who lives in the camp in Rembiga Field.

When a 7.0-magnitude aftershock rocked Lombok, Indonesia on August 5, it seemed like everyone engaged in disaster response was still occupied by responding to the 6.4-magnitude earthquake that had struck the area on July 29.

It was all over the news. This strong aftershock had sent everyone in Lombok, including tourists, into a panic. My friends know I am a humanitarian worker, and they all started checking in with me to ask if I knew the latest conditions in Lombok. Everyone willing to help, to donate.

I was immediately in contact with Humanitarian Forum Indonesia, to see what HFI’s other members were doing. I know that some of the members were already in Lombok after the first quake. I knew, though, that the National Disaster Management Agency had said that Indonesia didn’t need international assistance to respond. I didn’t know what that meant for CWS, which is an international organization with a local office in Indonesia.

What I did know, though, is that our team – like the teams of all local organizations – was gravely concerned for the hundreds of people who were killed and the thousands who were injured or lost their homes in the quakes.

It didn’t take long for our team to find a way to engage in the humanitarian response in Lombok. I am the team’s Disaster Risk Management Specialist, and we offered that I could be seconded (loaned) to the HFI team in Lombok to help coordinate and support the response. So, I flew to Lombok on Sunday with one of HFI’s staff.

Families came from North Lombok – the area most affected by the quakes – to stay in the Rembiga camp in Mataram. Photo: CWS

When we landed on Lombok, we drove directly to North Lombok, the most affected area. On the way we passed Senggigi village, one of the famous tourist areas and the gateway to the popular Gili islands. Many of the hotel buildings were damaged, and guests were gone.

As we got closer to North Lombok, all the houses, schools and other buildings were severely damaged. People were just sitting in front of their collapsed houses. I assume they were trying to figure out what to do next. Women and children gathered in makeshift tents by the side of the road or in their fields.

It was a devasting sight to see.

We got to the command post, where we met with response leadership. We dove into coordination meetings and what we call a Joint Need Assessment analysis. That means that we were strategizing about what the top needs are and how to meet them effectively and efficiently.

A woman walks through Rembiga camp in Mataram. Photo: CWS

Then I took some time to tour Mataram city because I had heard that some areas of the city had also been affected. I visited a large field near the hostel where I was staying called Rembiga Field. It had become a camp for internally displaced people. It was mostly women and children living in the makeshift tents here. They circled around me when I tried to speak with one woman.

“I came from the North Lombok District to this came because my house collapsed,” said one woman.

“There is still no aid that has come for us,” said another. Her friend chimed in, “well, there was aid like food and snacks, but it wasn’t enough because there were too many of us.” She continued, “We need diapers and milk for the babies.”

It had been eight days since the quake rocked the island, and information was still coming in that a lot of areas didn’t have help yet. I was glad to be there, working alongside other responders to make sure that these women, and the thousands of others who were impacted, could get the help they needed.

This blog was written by CWS Disaster Risk Management Specialist Mathilde Hutagaol on August 13, while she was in Lombok. She will provide another update in the coming days.

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