Story of a tsunami survivor: “Even those who didn’t have disabilities have not survived, my daughter has certainly died”
July 18, 2019
Kusmiran delivering a hygiene promotion session for disaster-affected community in Sigi, Central Sulawesi
“I was sitting near the beach taking selfies when a strong earthquake suddenly occurred. I kneeled down and saw a black and giant wave coming to the shore,” recounted Kusmiran, while spreading her hands to describe how huge the wave was. Kusmiran is a survivor of the disaster that devastated a major part of the Central Sulawesi Province in Indonesia on September 28th 2018. More than 2, 000 people died that Friday evening, following a series of earthquakes, tsunami and liquefaction.
As part of her activities in a local Disabled People’s Organisation (DPO), Kusmiran was involved in a handicraft exhibition held near a beach in Palu City when the disaster happened. “I was tired after decorating the exhibition booth and went closer to the beach to rest and take selfies,” she recalled. She explained that some earthquakes had happened earlier that day. “But this time (the shake) was very strong. My body went back and forth, up and down, left and right. A man helped me to walk away from the beach, but I fell. I said to him to just go because the wave was getting very close. I put my crutch down and closed my eyes, just as the water reached and spun my whole body inside the wave. I don’t know what exactly happened after that, but then my head emerged above the water and someone helped me to evacuate,” Kusmiran recalled that unforgettable event. “I lost my crutch, but I managed to find a ride and evacuated to a nearby hillside. I spent the night there, in my soaked clothes. I heard lots of bad news about the situation in the city and kept thinking about my family. Right after the first ray of sunlight, I asked somebody to get me back to the city.”
Her mother was in shock when Kusmiran finally arrived home. “My brother was cleaning the house for my funeral ritual,” Kusmiran explained. “He and my mother had gone to the beach to search for me. They searched between the dead bodies along the beach, they went to hospitals, but I was nowhere to be found. My mother said that even those who didn’t have disabilities have not survived, my daughter has certainly died,” Kusmiran told with a big smile.
A few weeks after experiencing that near-death event, Kusmiran became involved in humanitarian response activities to support the affected communities around Palu and other nearby districts. She and her fellow members of local DPOs became the implementing partners of the ASB/Solidar Suisse disaster response programme in Palu, Sigi and Donggala. Kusmiran visited many evacuation centers and distributed hygiene kits to community members who are still living in shelters and emergency facilities. She also organised hygiene promotion activities to help ensure the quality of living of the communities. Additionally, Kusmiran has reached out to other persons with disabilities affected by the disaster. “I have never been involved in this kind of activity before. Sometimes the schedule is so tight and I have to go to far places, but I have learned a lot, especially how to become more confident in myself. I am so happy to be part of this. I am proud of myself; that as a person with disability, I can do something to help others in need.” (Rizma Kristiana/Edit: Joan Scanlan)