‘Communities are resilient’: Indonesian towns come together after tsunami kills hundreds

‘Communities are resilient’: Indonesian towns come together after tsunami kills hundreds

Indonesia has faced a long year of natural disasters — from earthquakes to volcanoes to Saturday night’s devastating tsunami — but its sense of community remains strong.

“Communities are resilient,” Kathy Mueller with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies told Global News in an interview.

“They don’t just wait for aid to come. They start salvaging whatever materials they can to make a makeshift shelter. They start looking for ways so that they can improve the situation as best they can,” Mueller said from her location in Palu City, Indonesia.

A tsunami triggered by a volcanic eruption blasted Indonesia on Saturday night, leaving over 200 dead and almost 1,000 injured. The worst-affected area was the Pandeglang region of Java’s Banten province, which encompasses Ujung Kulon National Park and popular beaches, the country’s disaster agency said.

Indonesia sits on the geologically active Pacific Ring of Fire, which is regularly hit by tsunamis and earthquakes. In addition to the 222 people killed on Saturday, two major earthquakes hit the region in 2018 alone, killing a combined 2,500 people.

Mueller adds that the networks of extended family in the region all come together to help each other when tragedy strikes.

“People pull together the communities there, with good solid networks and with extended families, and they all come together to help each other after disasters like this,” she said.

Mueller, whose team is also still responding to the most recent earthquake to hit Central Sulawesi in September, also has some advice for those who want to send support to the afflicted regions from overseas.

“We really hesitate to and actually we don’t encourage people to send material goods overseas. It costs a lot,” she said.

For Canadians interested in lending a hand, she advises against sending physical goods. Rather, she suggests Canadians donate to the Canadian Red Cross website at redcross.ca and make a donation through the general Disaster Response Fund.

“We also want to make sure that any aid that is provided is the actual medical aid that people need. People may be well-intentioned but what may work in a response in Canada may not necessarily work in a response in Indonesia,” she continued.

She noted however, that in her experience, “Canadians are the most generous in the world when it comes to responding to disasters and they have very generously supported Canadian Red Cross operations in the past.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also offered his condolences to Indonesia on Sunday afternoon.

He added that the Canadian government was ready to provide disaster assistance, if requested.

“A very shocking and tragic situation in Indonesia — today we send condolences to everyone affected by the tsunami that caused so much devastation on the Sunda Strait. Canadians’ thoughts are with you and our government is ready to offer assistance if needed,” a tweet from the prime minister read.

The prime minister didn’t provide any further details on what kind of assistance he was prepared to offer. Neither Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer nor New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh have commented on the events in Indonesia.

The tsunami marks the latest in a string of natural disasters to strike the region this year, with the most recent being an earthquake this past September that killed more than 2,500 people.

—With a file from the Associated Press

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