Two major earthquakes have hit the Padang, West Sumatra, region – the initial 7.6 on Wednesday evening and then a 6.6 quake on Thursday morning. Padang, the gateway to the Mentawai Islands and where most of the surf charter boats are based, has been seriously damaged and the death toll is more than 1,100 but there are fears that thousands more are still trapped beneath the rubble of collapsed buildings.
SurfAid has gone into emergency mode and has staff doing assessments of the needs of the people in the coastal areas south of Padang, which are heavily populated and impoverished. SurfAid had Mentawai health program staff already in Padang and they have been reassigned to emergency work. SurfAid will respond to the immediate urgent needs with medical staff and supplies. SurfAid has eight doctors and three nurses preparing medical supplies.
SurfAid is buying tents, tarpaulins, food, water and sanitation and medical supplies in Medan, North Sumatra, and getting these to Padang.
The SurfAid office in Padang survived, however the internet system is down, along with electricity and phones, so a priority is to get a new internet system in place along with satellite phones and gensets for power, along with fresh water as the mains water supply is cut off.
SurfAid’s Program Director, Dr David Lange, who has been with the organisation less than a month, narrowly escaped from the Ambacang Hotel just before it collapsed. The people behind him didn’t make it out and last night emergency crews were using heavy lifting equipment to try to locate any survivors. The Ambacang is a well-known stopover hotel for surfers heading out to the Mentawai Islands.
SurfAid is still trying to locate five of its Indonesian staff in Padang. Sixty Australians were still unaccounted for last night.
SurfAid CEO and Founder Dr Dave Jenkins is in Bali and will fly into Padang when we have our communications systems in place. SurfAid Chief Operating Officer Andrew Judge is in Medan, North Sumatra, hoping to get on one of the full flights to Padang today.
The SurfAid speedboat Sibex was dispatched to a village in Siberut yesterday to check on reports that a school and mosque had collapsed.
SurfAid Mentawai Program Manager Tom Plummer is heading to Padang from his base in Tua Pejat, the regional capital of the Mentawais. His house in Padang is completely flattened. Luckily his pregnant wife, Sas, had just left for the USA. “Thankfully she left on Tuesday, the day before the first earthquake,” Tom said. “She had finished a contract with an aid organisation in Aceh and had just shipped all her belongings down to our house in Padang. I haven’t told her yet that there’s nothing left.”
SurfAid Program Director Dr David Lange filed the first report to SurfAid staff after his narrow escape on Wednesday evening: “That was a very large earthquake. I don’t know the size yet but large chunks of glass and brick walls of the hotel I was in came down all around me. I can’t imagine how I got out. It was like the floor was falling away as I ran over it. I lost my passport, communications, all my money. The city is burning, infrastructure appears damaged (water lines, sewer lines, power lines are down). We need medical supplies, food, shelter and transportation. I would guess hundreds are dead and significant infrastructure damage worthy of a significant response.
"I have only scrapes. I'm in a safe place. We are going to set up a field hospital now. I'm using someone else's computer and won't be able to communicate."
A few hours later, David filed this report: "I just can't believe I'm alive. The people right behind me didn't make it out, the blocks from the hotel were falling all around me.
"One hospital, called Silasi, is completely ruined and non-functional. One other private hospital is damaged severely but functioning out of tents. The main public hospital I did not assess. The Ambacang Hotel and Spice Homestay are both collapsed, with lots of westerners in the Ambacang.
"I saw dozens of the biggest buildings collapsed in town, most of the damage is concentrated in the commercial centre markets, the main pasar, which was fully packed. The one-storey homes seem OK but people aren't staying in them because of fear. Water mains are ruined and power lines are down. No fuel is available right now.
"People are trapped and screaming for help but they are below huge slabs that will take heavy equipment and there is none. I would expect hundreds dead when the final toll is known, but the big issue is that the normal infrastructure is down. We should focus on supporting infrastructure: tents, tent clinics, clean water, food."
SurfAid has launched the SurfAid Padang Earthquake Relief Appeal. You can donate via our website at www.surfaidinternational.org
Thank you very much – and many thanks to all who have already donated.
– Kirk Willcox
SurfAid International Communications Director
M: + 61 407 063 829