Palu - The South African delegation of the Gift of the Givers was on medical duty on Tuesday, visiting and treating injured quake survivors on the outskirts of Palu.
The volunteers visited injured residents in Ngatabaru and Petobo. The trips into the southern part of Palu brought into sharp focus the devastation caused by the 7.2 earthquake in late September.
The city of Palu was also rocked by four aftershock tremors in the early hours of Tuesday morning, with the biggest tremor recorded at 5.2 on the Richter scale.
No injuries have been reported from Tuesday's tremors.
Dr Yacoob Vahed, a Welkom-based medical doctor and a volunteer with the Gift of the Givers, treated several patients who had been injured during the earthquake.
He said a young bed-ridden woman who had swollen feet due to an internal fracture, would not go to hospital out of fear that the earthquake would return, leading her to further injury.
“The problems we are encountering are linked directly to the earthquake. We’ve seen a lot of fractures. The sad part is that a lot of the people need to be in hospital and a lot of the fractures took place more than two weeks ago. They are sitting in camps with no medical attention. To get them to a hospital is almost impossible, the logistics are insurmountable and the problem is that the people are afraid to go to hospital because they are afraid of being hurt in hospital,” said Vahed.
He said the fears of the earthquake had gripped the nation, alluding to an injured woman in her 20s who was bed-ridden after she fell off her motorbike while trying to flee the earthquake.
“People need surgery,” reiterated Vahed. “She can’t even move, she can’t sit up and she is in severe pain and has cellulitis. If she was anywhere else in the world she would have had surgery last week, but she is afraid to go to hospital,” he said.
Local Indonesians embraced the care they received from the Gift of the Givers and the local NGO partner, the PPPA, as they moved from one house to the next. A baby boy who fractured his arm internally sobbed uncontrollably when they arrived at their wood and mud-built house in Natabaru, but a few sweet treats had the youngster co-operating. Medics tied a splint around his arm temporarily and urged his mother to take him to a to a hospital.
With almost 2 000 people confirmed dead and fears that the death toll could be as high as 5 000, the Indonesian government told the Gift of the Givers urban search and rescue teams that they were not needed on Tuesday and blocked them from taking part in any work on the ground on Tuesday.
This was despite the government allowing the members to register with the government on Monday.
The Indonesian government on Monday issued strict regulations for foreign NGOs to follow, which include that the foreign volunteers would not be allowed to conduct searches and that they needed to work with local NGO partners.
Meanwhile, Agus Salim from the Jakarta-based NGO, said in Petobo, also to the south of Palu, 2 000 houses were destroyed and about 9 000 people displaced. The government has not revealed how many people were killed here, where the land slid for more than two kilometres.
#Indonesia: Agus Salim of the Jakarta based NGO
Stronger Together describes how 2000 homes were wiped away by the earthquake in Petobo, Palu. @IOL @SundayTribuneSA @IOSNewsSA pic.twitter.com/3yiWYgDLC9
Meanwhile, Vahed said the Gift of the Givers would assist where it was needed, despite the restrictions imposed by the Indonesian government.
“We are trying our best. We feel helpless because the little we are doing might not make a difference,” he said. “We will build tents on the sites because that is what they said they need from us, but we are aware that 10% of hospital staff never turned up after the earthquake and tsunami, we want to offer our services to the Indonesians,” he said.
* Cash contributions to assist the victims of the disaster can be deposited into Gift of the Givers, Standard Bank, Pietermaritzburg, Account No. 052278611, Branch Code 057525. Please send deposit slip to [email protected] for acknowledgement. You can also donate online here.
** Independent Media journalist Sihle Mlambo is in Indonesia with the Gift of the Givers team.