After a 6.9 magnitude earthquake hit the tourist island of Lombok, Indonesia, on Sunday, aid agencies worked Monday to help the estimated tens of thousands left homeless.
“People’s houses have been destroyed and they don’t want to leave their belongings. So they’re sitting outside their houses,” said Thomas Howells, Save the Children’s director of program implementation, from Jakarta, Indonesia. Save the Children is one of the international aid groups helping the area cope with the earthquake and its aftershocks.
An estimated 80,000 people are displaced, based on the number of homes destroyed, Howells said. The death toll reached 98 on Monday and was expected to climb. Authorities and aid agencies are coordinating to supply survivors with temporary shelters and jerry cans to hold drinkable water. Longer term, those who lost their livelihoods will likely receive cash assistance as well, he said.
The groups, working with the Indonesian government, are helping set up camps with child-friendly spaces. “We’re concerned that children left to their own devices could run into harm, so the idea is to have loose, local structures, like tents or light wooden structures for them to go” for supervised play, Howells said.
“For adults, losing all your possessions and having to move to a camp is distressing” and it is even more so for children, he said. “We’re trying to get some sense of normalcy back in their lives.”
Indonesia, a collection of islands between the Indian and Pacific oceans with a population of 261 million, is part of an earthquake-prone area known as the Ring of Fire because of its seismic activity. Although the area is no stranger to earthquakes — it’s been struck by six other 6.5 magnitude or larger quakes over the past 100 years — the one on Sunday was unusually large.
The Save the Children staff in Lombok were trained for disasters, Howells said. But “when it happens to you, it’s very different than the training.” And around them, local residents are still panicking about possible additional severe aftershocks, he said.