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 Witnesses of 2010 Mentawai tsunami struggle to survive

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BerichtOnderwerp: Witnesses of 2010 Mentawai tsunami struggle to survive   di 15 maa 2016 - 9:08

The Jakarta Post, Mentawai Islands, West Sumatra, March 15 2016

A lack of economic programs and limited land in their new area have made it difficult for survivors of the 2010 tsunami in the Mentawai Islands, West Sumatra, to bounce back after the disaster.

The tsunami, caused by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake, displaced more than 2,000 families living on the three affected islands, with South Pagai being the worst hit, in which 900 families in 22 villages had to be relocated.

They were relocated 9 to 12 kilometers from their original homes.

The first relocation site is located 27 km from Polaga Pier, the closest place to Sikakap district. The last is located 103 km from the pier.

Vehicles can be driven only as far as Kilometer 46, after which the bridges connecting areas farther away are in a state of disrepair.

“We cannot do much here to improve our finances,” Sabarudin Taileleu, 50, of Kinumbu village, Bulasat subdistrict at KM 46 told The Jakarta Post recently.

He said the 36-meter-by-30-meter plot of land that his family’s new home stood on was not large enough to grow produce to sell to support his family.

He grows bananas on the land to feed his family. Banana is a staple food for Mentawai people, along with sago and taro.

Nikolaus Sababalat, the head of Purorougat Purimanuajat village, Malakopa subdistrict, told the same story, saying that he planted banana trees, chili, eggplant and taro in his yard in the KM 37 area for daily consumption.

He said his family had stayed at an evacuation center for two months before moving into a house provided by the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI) for three years before finally moving into their new home.

Nikolaus said they received cash aid only for the first year at the temporary house and after depended on aid given by local people to meet their needs. Only after moving to their present home could his family plant banana trees and taro for their own consumption.

To make extra money, like half of other families in the relocation site, he goes to his old village and stays overnight to catch fish.

He said the soil at the relocation site was fertile and that a bunch of bananas could be sold for Rp 5,000 (24 US cents) to Rp 30,000. Yet, limited land prevented them from earning more as the harvest was only sufficient for his family.

The head of Purorogat Bagatsimalelet village, Emilius Sababalat, said the earnings of the relocated families was almost zero. “We rarely eat rice here,” he said.

He added that if any rice for the poor (raskin) was distributed, people preferred to sell the rice to buy kerosene for illumination.

The tsunami killed 53 people in his old village of Purorogat, including his wife, their two children and his mother.

“We do hope the government will soon give us additional land to farm and to build a road to our old villages. That would be the best way to get back on our feet,” Emilius said.

However, that would not be easy as South Pagai Island is a concession area belonging to PT Minas Pagai Lumber. It took the government more than two years to obtain the site to relocate the tsunami survivors.

Other challenges include a lack of electricity. Of the 22 relocated villages, only one, namely Bulasat, has power, which comes from a government solar power plant. Others depend on kerosene lamps for lighting.

Earlier this month, the islands were shaken by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. No fatalities or damage to property were reported. Residents ran away from the beach as there was a tsunami warning that was later canceled.

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