Dewi’s Story: Surviving the Indonesia Tsunami

My name is Dewi, and my husband’s name is Abyasa, my job is selling fish and my husband is an entrepreneur, we have 2 children. We used to live on in one of the villages in Central Sulawesi.

It was 4.30pm, I had just finished selling fish on the market and we planned to go home. I was with my husband and our youngest boy Budi, who was 3 years 9 months old at the time. Our journey home was on a motorbike and we would ride along the road on the seashore, over Ponulele bridge (one of Palu city’s iconic features), then we would pass Anjungan Park (a public area close to the beach where lots of people would gathered). As usual at the time these places were crowded with cars and motorcycles passing by, people walking and some sitting in the park as they made their way home from work.


Damage caused by the Earthquake and Tsunami.

Suddenly, our motorbike was shaking hard and it very difficult to control, I wondered what was happening and thought perhaps the motorcycle’s tire was broken or flat? However, it was strange because at the same moment I saw a lot of motorbikes and cars falling on the highway. I also saw many traffic accidents happen where vehicles crossed each other and crashed into one another.

It was at this point that we realised that a large earthquake was occurring. My husband stopped our motorbike and said to me “Dewi you have to run as fast you can, take Budi with you’’, I saw the sea water erupt upward, it was very high and pitch black. I ran as fast as I possibly could while holding my child. I went into the sea salt extraction pond and I could still hear my husband behind us screaming loudly ‘Dewi…Dewi run…run…fast…fast’. I saw waves approximately 8 meters high quickly rolling behind me. Budi screamed in fear ‘mama, I am afraid, I’m afraid mama’. I was crying while running and all I could to say was ‘hug mama son, hug mama, mama won’t let you go, don’t be afraid’. At that time I was confused on where to go and I did not know how to save my child, I panicked and could only shout “Great Allah..Great Allah…please save us.

I jumped on to the salt, as I thought it was solid and hard, but it was not. I was quickly sucked into the mud and could not get out. My son continued to say ‘mama … I am scared’. At that time I could not move anymore, I saw the waves close in and in the distance I could see many people swallowed by the waves, including my husband. I could only surrender while praying for God’s protection. In just a few seconds the first wave was hitting me, spinning, rolling and even dragging me out of the mud, I could still feel my child in my arms at that time but when the second wave came, I lost him. I could not hold him anymore, I just remember rolling with the waves and after that I cannot recall anything. I had blacked out and I was unconscious.

At about 9pm, I realised that I was stuck on a tree, I was bleeding, full of wounds, my legs were broken and I was naked. I could only scream for help while calling for my son and husband, but no one was there. I was confused and very scared. With great difficulty I managed to climb down from the tree and crawled to find a way out of that area, dead bodies were every where. I could not remember who helped me, but there were some good people who gave me a cloth and took me to a place where I could get help. I was taken to the hospital by a navy soldier to get care.


Photo credit : Adi Mardiansyah – Anadolu Agency.

Two days after the disaster I was so sick and with a broken leg and wounds all over my body I could not do anything, other than cry. I wondered where my children and husband were and if all my family were safe? I met one of my neighbors who was looking for her family in the hospital, I asked her about my family, she was crying and telling me that our village had been completely wiped out by the tsunami. There were many casualties including her family members, she told me all those that I knew name by name and none of them included my family. I thanked God to hear that my big family were saved including my husband and my eldest child. Only Budi was a casualty and he has still not been found up to now. Currently we are living in a resettlement camp, we have nothing left except the hope that keep us alive as we can only live from the help of others. We hope soon everything will be better.

*Dewi’s Story has been translated from Indonesian to English. All names used in this story have been changed to protect the identities of Dewi and her family.

Abyasa and Dewi’s family are one of the families that survived the earthquake and tsunami which occurred in Palu City on September 28, 2018. Thousands of people were displaced due numerous homes and buildings being damaged during the disasters. Like most displaced people, these families are still living in tents at a resettlement camp, without basic necessities such as clean water, health care, education and no source of income.

Water supply @ settlement camp

 Dewi recieves clean water from ADRA at the resettlement camp.

ADRA has been able to provide Dewi and her family with clean water while they are living in the resettlement camp, during a time when families go without the basic necessities, having clean water, shelter, hygiene and food starts the process of rebuilding lives.

As a network ADRA has provided shelter kits,hygiene kits and  food parcels to children, women and men impacted by the Indonesia Earthquake and Tsunami. Disasters can strike at anytime and for those affected, the difference between life and death is how quickly help can get to them.