People crowded into shelters and tents when Mount Semeru in Lumajang district (East Java) erupted Jan 15

By Mathias Hariyadi

Jan 19 2021

Fleeing from Mamuju on the night of January 15, after the strong quake, they returned a few days later to organize food aid for the survivors, while aftershocks continue. Provisional toll of 81 dead, 554 injured, 1150 houses badly damaged or destroyed, 15 schools in danger. The hospitality of a Muslim family and a Catholic family. The commitment of the local Caritas. Mount Merapi and Mount Semeru erupt.

JAKARTA – Three Poor Clare Missionary Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament have felt first-hand the panic, fatigue and restlessness victims of the earthquake that struck the city of Mamuju three days ago, capital of the province of West Sulawesi. But after two days in a shelter, they have now returned to the city to organize and distribute aid for the survivors.

According to the government disaster agency (Bnpb), so far there are 81 dead, 554 injured, 1150 houses badly damaged or destroyed, 15 schools in danger. Even today, the rescue teams are still digging through the rubble in search of survivors.

Gen. Doni Monardo, who directs the operations, ensures that anti-Covid tests will soon be conducted among all the inhabitants. The emergency situation, with people crowded into shelters and tents, makes it impossible to fully follow the anti-pandemic rules.

In Southeast Asia, Indonesia is the country most affected by the coronavirus: so far there have been 908,000 cases and 26,000 deaths. West Sulawesi province had 2,500 cases and 58 deaths.

Sister Fransiska, one of the three sisters, continues to repeat: “Please do not forget to at least wear a mask, even if social distancing is not easy in these conditions”. The nun, along with her two sisters and some volunteers, is busy collecting and distributing food – especially chicken soup – for the survivors.

She tells AsiaNews about the little odyssey in which she was involved together with her sisters and the parish priest of the church of S. Maria in Mamuju, Fr. Victor Wiro Patinggi Pr.

On January 14, there were several short quakes. However, the nuns decided to stay in the convent. The pastor did the same. But on the night of January 15, the strong shock of magnitude 6.2 prompted them to flee. The electricity was out and everything was in the dark. As he walked, Fr. Victor put stepped on broken glass and injured himself. His church was severely damaged.

West Sulawesi province was established in 2004 and does not have a lot of infrastructure. The provincial capital, Mamuju, is also a small city with 300,000 inhabitants.

The nuns were evacuated and taken to a high place (for fear of a tsunami), in Kelapa Tujuh, where they found thousands of people gathered, looking for shelter.

Fortunately for them, a Muslim family offered them hospitality, along with 14 other people. “The house was a bit small – recalls Sister Franciska – but there was fresh water, which came from a local source”.

A few days later, Sister Franciska and her sisters returned to Mamuju, where they have been running a school for years and helping in the pastoral care of the parish.

The situation, however, is still not calm: there are continuous aftershocks, some even strong ones. Yesterday, a local Catholic family offered them hospitality in a tent, a temporary shelter. In the evening, the devastated city is still dark because there is no electricity. Only some houses have autonomous generators.

With the sunlight, the nuns and the parish priest – who now walks with the aid of a crutch – collect the many charitable offerings that accumulate in the church from anonymous donors.

Meanwhile, the local Caritas (Camar) also started distributing humanitarian aid to survivors and victims of the earthquake yesterday, praised by the Archbishop of Makassar, Msgr. John Liku Ada’.

For Catholics, Pope Francis’ words yesterday at the Angelus, when he prayed for the victims, survivors, families and volunteers, is also a comfort. “I am moved by the Pope’s personal attention and his compassion for my compatriots,” Tunggur, a resident of East Java, told AsiaNews.

For Indonesia, which is located in the seismic zone of the so-called “ring of fire”, the dangers are not over. Today, the country’s most active volcano, Mount Merapi, in central Java, erupted lapilli and ashes into the air as incandescent lava flowed towards the Krasak River.

Two days earlier, Mount Semeru in Lumajang district (East Java) erupted, spewing clouds of ash up to 4,000 meters high. – AsiaNews