The Indonesian government reports that more than 40 people were killed and nearly 5,000 were forced to flee their homes after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake shook the island of Java Wednesday afternoon and caused several smaller quakes within the next few hours.
A Catholic Relief Services emergency relief team immediately traveled to the villages hardest hit by the quake to determine the scope and scale of the emergency. Within 24 hours, a mobile operation was established as part of the initial response. More than 1,000 blankets, as well as tarps, hygiene kits and clothing are being handed out to villagers in need. CRS was able to quickly respond because all of the items were stored in a warehouse, ready for distribution in case of an emergency.
"Our response team witnessed widespread devastation in the worst-hit villages, where many people, particularly women, children and the elderly, had to sleep outside and observe Ramadan in tents. Men had to stand guard during the night to protect their families and watch over possessions. The destruction varied between one district and another, but was spread out across more than 10 districts in West and Central Java provinces," says Yenni Suryani, senior representative for CRS in Indonesia.
The town hardest hit on the island of Java was Tasikmalaya—about 150 miles southeast of Jakarta—where CRS' emergency response team reported seeing thousands of buildings and homes heavily damaged. Government officials in one community declared 50 people missing, presumably buried in a massive mudslide triggered by the quake. CRS staff in the Jakarta office were evacuated from the building but returned after about 10 minutes. All staff and families are fine. Hundreds of workers from nearby offices and shops in Jakarta, where tremors shattered glass windows in some high-rise buildings, were also evacuated.
The government of West Java declared emergency status in the province. The governor announced that $9 million has been approved for emergency response and reconstruction. CRS will continue to monitor the needs of affected people—in collaboration with the government and our partners—to determine the needs in the next stage of the response.
Indonesia sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire," one of the most active areas for earthquakes and volcanic activity in the world. CRS has been working in Indonesia since 1957 to help rural communities alleviate human suffering, eradicate poverty and become self-reliant. In response to the 2004 earthquake and tsunami, CRS' presence in Indonesia extended to Aceh, where more than 160,000 people were killed or missing after the catastrophe and more than 800,000 people were left homeless. CRS' rehabilitation effort, including the construction of more than 2,000 new homes in Aceh, was the organization's largest recovery effort in our 65-year history.
Liz O'Neill is CRS' communications officer for Europe, the Middle East and Asia. She is based at the agency's headquarters in Baltimore.