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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 October 2018

Indonesians in UAE pray for their families after deadly disaster

Desperate relatives try to contact loved ones amid the chaos left by Friday's earthquake and tsunami that hit Sulawesi island

Lisna Mallang, who works as a waitress at Betawi Restaurant in Al Karama in Dubai, is praying that her family in Indonesia are safe after the country was hit by an earthquake and tsunami. Pawan Singh / The National
Lisna Mallang, who works as a waitress at Betawi Restaurant in Al Karama in Dubai, is praying that her family in Indonesia are safe after the country was hit by an earthquake and tsunami. Pawan Singh / The National

An Indonesian woman living in the UAE said she does not know if her brother is dead or alive after an earthquake and tsunami left a trail of destruction in her homeland.

More than 1,300 people died when a 7.5-magnitude quake struck just off the central island of Sulawesi, triggering a tsunami that battered the coastal city of Palu.

With some remote areas still cut off since the disaster struck last Friday, and a volcanic eruption on Wednesday spewing ash 6,000 meters into the sky above North Sulawesi province, many were left anxiously waiting for news.

Almi Yahid, an Indonesian housemaid living in Dubai, is desperate for news of her 29-year-old brother.

“We don’t know if he is dead or alive,” she said.

“My family is trying to reach the area from our village in Morowali after failing to get in contact with him.

“He went there to work in a restaurant two years ago and was planning to come back and get married next year.

“I pray for him all the time and I am always asking my family about him and if they have managed to find him, but I have heard nothing until now.”

Lisna Mallang, a waitress working in Dubai, said she is "praying every day" for family members to be found safe.

An aerial view of the Baiturrahman mosque which was hit by the tsunami in Palu, Sulawesi. Reuters         
An aerial view of the Baiturrahman mosque which was hit by the tsunami in Palu, Sulawesi. Reuters         

Ms Mallang, 27, has been unable to make contact with her uncle and his family who live in the Donggala area of the island nation.

“We don’t know anything about my uncle and his family,” she said.

“My family tried to call them many times but their phones are not working.

“It’s a tragic incident and when I found out about it I was shocked and couldn’t think straight.

“I called my mother to check if she had any news about my uncle but she didn’t.

“I pray every single day that my father will find my uncle and his family alive and safe, and I pray for the souls of the people who died in the tsunami.

Ms Mallang's immediate family live in Makassar city, South Sulawesi, about 900 kilometres from the affected area.

She said her entire village had donated food, water, blankets and clothes for the people in Donggala

Because Palu's airport is closed due to the devastation, the helpers had to fly from another location and then drive for several hours to deliver the supplies.

Donggala is home to about 300,000 people and is 34 kilometres north of Palu.

Among those killed in the disaster were 34 children at a Bible study camp, a Red Cross official said.

Commercial airlines struggled to restore operations at Palu's damaged airport but military aircraft were able to rescue some survivors.

Indonesia is prone to earthquakes because of its location on the "Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin.

In December 2004, a 9.1-magnitude earthquake off Sumatra in western Indonesia created a tsunami that killed about 230,000 people in a dozen countries.

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Read more:

Powerful quakes rock Sulawesi in Indonesia, destroying homes

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