Eyewitness report from Indonesian earthquake zone

image: Christian Aid

image: Christian Aid

Father Michele Galli, a Xaverian missionary  described  the first moments of the earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale that hit the city of Padang, capital of the West Sumatra province on Wednesday. He told the Missionary News Service: “It was 5.15pm and I was speaking to a confrere in our house in Padang, when suddenly we heard a loud rumbling noise moving toward us; within seconds everything began collapsing”,

“It happened in a moment. There were around ten in the house and we all gathered around two columns that appeared to be the most resistant and waited. The quake devastated all of the rooms, though fortunately aside from some cracks, the house held up well."  I guess it wasn’t our time yet”, said Fr Galli adding that the wall surrounding the building completely collapsed.

The area of Sumatra is among the world’s most seismic zones and Padang is located along the so-called ‘Ring of Fire’; just two years ago the area was hit by a quake measuring 8.4 on the Richter scale, though “Wednesday’s was the worst I remember in 52 years that I have lived in Padang”, explained the missionary.

“When we left the house, we saw the extent of the disaster. The Catholic hospital that stands next to our house was hit hard. An entire wing collapsed and from what I understand, the medical staff were not able to evacuate all of the patients. Looking from the courtyard of our house all I could see was destruction”,

Fr  Galli, 81,  arrived in Jakarta on Friday to depart for a two month break in Italy.  He said: “Padang is a dead city. After the quake the situation was terrible and surreal. The city, entirely in the dark and destroyed, for hours appeared almost suspended, while it even began to rain. I think that those who say thousands are still trapped under the rubble are right. I saw houses and large buildings reduced to a pile of rubble, the university gone, with all those who were inside."

"The market area, which at that time is usually very busy, practically doesn’t exist anymore, and all the old little houses that surround the stores gone for ever”.

“There are still so many people trapped under the rubble. The government and people are doing everything possible, but don’t have sufficient means. In the city there is need for everything, from food to clothes and medical supplies”.

Source: MISNA

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