Volunteers leave Mentawai due to storms, lack of skills

Volunteers leave Mentawai due to storms, lack of skills

Syofiardi Bachyul Jb, The Jakarta Post, Padang | Thu, 11/04/2010 9:38 AM | Headlines

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Sneaking in: A motorcyclist tries to pull his vehicle under a tree trunk, which fell down on a road in Sikakap, Mentawai, West Sumatra, on Wednesday. Almost 80 percent of roads were damaged in the Oct. 25 deadly tsunami. This has become a major problem for distributing relief aid to survivors of the tsunami tragedy.JP/R. Berto WedhatamaSneaking in: A motorcyclist tries to pull his vehicle under a tree trunk, which fell down on a road in Sikakap, Mentawai, West Sumatra, on Wednesday. Almost 80 percent of roads were damaged in the Oct. 25 deadly tsunami. This has become a major problem for distributing relief aid to survivors of the tsunami tragedy.JP/R. Berto Wedhatama

Dozens of volunteers left the Mentawai Islands, West Sumatra, on Wednesday — more than a week after a tsunami killed 428 people.

Severe weather has slowed aid distribution to the worst-hit islands, leading to a backlog of relief supplies at the main disaster management post in Sikakap district.

It also left volunteers without much to do.

One person fell into the water and was rushed to hospital as more than 200 volunteers scrambled to board the Indonesian Navy ship Teluk Cirebon, which was to set sail from Mentawai for the provincial capital, Padang, as reported by Antara news agency.

Former vice president and Indonesian Red Cross (PMI) chairman Jusuf Kalla said it would be better
to send trained volunteers to disaster zones.

“There are plenty of volunteers now. It’s fine to send volunteers — but they should have skills and courage,” Kalla said in Surabaya, East Java, on Wednesday as quoted by Antara.

Kalla said volunteers should not burden the government or residents affected by the disasters.

“If the volunteers are afraid of big waves in Mentawai, don’t go there. The waves are huge, not to mention that there is frequent rain and storms,” he said after installing new PMI executives in East Java.

Kalla said unskilled volunteers should not be sent to disaster sites, such as flood-stricken Wasior, West Papua; the tsunami-stricken Mentawai Islands or Yogyakarta, which has been suffering during the eruption of Mount Merapi.

“If they can, send volunteers who have the skills to build houses or evacuate victims,” Kalla said.

The PMI has sent volunteers to the three disaster sites, including teams sent to Central Java to aid thousands of residents displaced by Merapi’s eruption, he said. “We have to meet their needs for food and medicine,” he added.

At the Sikakap community health center is plagued by a lack of medical equipment.

Mulhendra, a physician from the West Sumatra Health Office, said many tsunami victims were suffering from pneumonia after they were swept away by tsunami.

If not properly treated, the patients might die, Mulhendra said, adding that the afflicted should be taken to hospitals in Padang for treatment — a luxury given limited medevac capabilities.

Doctors could not do much for the sick in Sikakap, even a week after the tsunami, due to limited medical facilities, Mulhendra said.

“We’re stressed not because of there is so much work but because we can’t do much in the face of limited facilities. Even if we could perform surgery, it would be for small procedures only,” Mulhendra said, as reported by kompas.com.

The tsunami that struck Mentawai Islands on the evening of Oct. 25 killed 428 people, according to
officials, including a 10-year-old boy, whose body was found in Malakopak village on South Pagai Island on Tuesday. Thousands were forced to evacuate after their homes were destroyed.

The sense of emergency following the disaster was apparently not shared by West Sumatra Governor Irwan Prayitno, who recently left on an official trip to Germany.

An official said tsunami victims needed temporary housing in addition to medical assistance.

West Sumatra PMI spokesperson Eko Suhadi said makeshift tents were not enough to protect evacuees from bad weather.

“The refugee situation is very bad. Many refugees, mostly children, have been traumatized while their health has worsened,” he said.

“Many are suffering from diarrhea due to a lack of clean water and poor sanitation around the makeshift tents,” Eko told The Jakarta Post.


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