brown university cis Veteran journalist finds himself part of palu tragedy – national – the jakarta post

The jakarta post journalist ruslan sangadji, 43, has called palu, central sulawesi, home for almost 30 years. As a journalist he covered the poso bloody conflicts, spanning from late 1990s and early 2000, and later in 2004, the devastating aceh tsunami.

When a powerful earthquake rocked palu on sept. 28, he was driving with his 5-year-old daughter in the back of the car, quite far from the beach. Only several minutes after the quake, he sent a message to the post’s regional correspondent group: “big quake just now. My car almost upended. Perhaps a 10-magnitude.”

Later, we lost communication for hours with him because of the power and communication blackouts in palu city, and sigi and donggala regencies. Five days later, the post’s evi mariani spoke to ruslan, as a survivor first and later as a journalist, about the devastating first days after the 7.4-magnitude earthquake and tsunami that followed.

Later he sent the post more survivors’ accounts. Here’s his story:

“the night was pitch black. Palu was dead. I saw people were outside their houses, sitting, crying. I heard someone wailing because of his wounds. But some people were on guard, helping motorists like myself, telling me that I should not take this route because the road was damaged. The road had some sort of ‘speed bumps’ due to the damage. They told me, ‘turn left, don’t go here, the road is damaged’.”

During the search for his son, ruslan passed a street near petobo, an area damaged by soil liquefaction, a geological process by which the soil structure collapses because of strong tremors. Brown university office of undergraduate admissions he was unable to study the scene clearly, but he heard a roar and saw the mud.

Only in the morning, when he did his first interview with a survivor named nasrudin, a petobo subdistrict resident, did he hear the full story of the incident – which is unknown to many in indonesia. Survivors who witnessed the liquefaction called it a “land tsunami”.

When the quake happened, he was in the bathroom. He ran out and told his wife and daughter to run for safety. After the swaying stopped, he returned to his house to get a towel and then ran out to the north. When he looked back, he saw his house was moving and there was mud.

Ruslan said he had not been tempted to loot because “luckily”, he still had some food left from when he bought supplies off the back of a pickup truck. He had also found shop that sold bottled water and later a market selling fish from parigi moutong regency.

“his house was near the beach, about 2 kilometers from the coast. I looked for them at his house, and I saw on their door a piece of paper with a message it, naming all their three children, ‘rahmi, alam [and another, one I forgot], mama and papa are in the field in front of the grand mosque’. My heart stopped while reading it. The three children had been separated from their parents,” ruslan said.

“so I went along with him and some military personnel to help retrieve his mother. The mud had dried but I stepped on a part that was still wet and soft, and half of my leg was buried. It took seven people to retrieve the body because she had been buried under the rubble. Someone had to saw off a wooden block, and then we had to carefully pull her body out without damaging it,” he said.

Survivors search for the exact location of their houses, which shifted as a result of soil liquefaction, in petobo district, palu, central sulawesi, on oct. 3. Search and rescue teams are having difficulties in retrieving bodies buried in the mud. (JP/dhoni setiawan)

Ramadani walked away from her mother to join the other dancers. Brown university academic schedule asti kissed her daughter that afternoon. It was their last kiss. The following day, asti had to pick up her daughter inside a body bag. Brown university official website she had been found among the mangroves near ponulele bridge.

When the waves began their assault, the four held on to each other’s hands, but they were continuously struck by trash and debris carried by the water. At one point, the group was struck so hard that two of his family members became separated.

“it is really different, being a survivor while working to cover the earthquake. It is harder. I went out and interviewed some people for the first three days. I thought it would help ease my trauma, but then I stopped. Between my job as a journalist, helping others and my children, it’s too much,” he said.

On the second day after the earthquake, ruslan’s children started getting restless. They woke up at night, crying, partly because of the powerful aftershocks. On the fourth day, he took his children to his parents in ternate. His ex-wife, the mother of his children who was in jakarta during the disaster, would meet the children there later. Their eldest child is a student at muhammadiyah malang university in east java.

An indonesian businessman of korean-descent contacted him and asked him to help distribute. So, after making sure his children were safe with his parents, he went back to makassar to shop for some aid. He rented an ambulance to bring the supplies to palu, to avoid being intercepted by some desperate survivors.