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19 October 2018

Our journey to the tsunami

This gallery contains 17 images

After a 7.5 magnitude earthquake and tsunami struck the Indonesian island of Sulawesi on 28th September, 2018, Muslim Hands immediately sent an emergency team to the region to assist in the relief efforts. Our Indonesian team members were joined a few days later by Umar Rashid (Programmes) and myself, Ayman Agabani (Communications Manager) from the UK. This is what we found...

After a three day journey, we finally landed in Poso, a city in the north east of Sulawesi, 111km from Palu. Its here we began purchasing food and emergency items to fill the four trucks we would be transporting to the disaster zone in Palu.
MH Indonesia Country Manager Khairul Rahmi was key to ensuring we had access to the best value wholesalers in the area. Many stores had increased their prices, but this one had kept its rates stable. We purchased items such as cooking oil, sugar, noodles, nappies and sanitary products.
10,500 eggs were purchased from a local supplier. For transportation, these would be stacked on top of the 3.5 tonnes of rice we had.
Clean water was in short supply, but we managed to procure a 10,000 litre shipment that was arriving into town. Safe water is essential for survival, and made up a large part of the 17 tonnes of aid for this emergency distribution.
After a tricky nine hour overnight drive, some parts of which had been hit by landslides due to the earthquake, we arrived in Palu. Our first stop was to offload half of the food and aid into a safe house for storage. None of this would be possible without the amazing help of our volunteers.
Our next stop was to drop off the remainder of the food and items to Masjid Al-Ishlah, where we have set up a community food kitchen. From here our volunteers prepare 1500 meals a day - feeding 500 people three times a day.
Due to the severe damage to the roads in the area, we set off with a team of volunteers on mopeds to deliver the freshly made food parcels to IDPs in remote areas. After navigating the broken streets for an hour, we came to our first stop. Survivors have no choice but to now live in makeshift tents, which give hardly any protection from rain and winds.
Roads have been destroyed, making access to some areas impossible. Its those that are trapped in remote, hard to reach areas that we're trying to reach. Its a hard task.
As the monsoon season is about to start, this will mean an increased likelihood of illness and even death for those living in tents.
Luqman and his family survived the destruction of his village Petobo. He said that right after the earthquake is when he saw the water from the tsunami appear. As he tried to escape, as much as he tried, he couldn't stand up due to trauma. Unfortunately he lost ten of his close relatives in the earthquake and has been living on the side of the road in a tent since then.
In the foreground lies the remains of a road that stretched through the village of Petobo. The earthquake literally moved it a kilometer into the distance, along with the remains of the village itself. An estimated 700-1400 people are feared buried under the rubble. One survivor described the earthquake as like being in a blender.
The Yellow Bridge in Palu, once a key crossing point, has been left mangled and unrecognisable.
The remains of a school in Donggala, one of the hardest hit areas. To allow the students to carry on their education, we will be setting up 24 temporary tents suitable to be used as classrooms. Muhammad, 17, pictured here said that he was having a shower when the earthquake hit, but did not run, knowing that Allah would protect him.
The shattered central mosque of Palu. As I have seen many times before in these situations, the high, playful spirits of children shines through, no matter the circumstance.
Preparing the evening meal at one of the IDP camp sites. A small comfort from the struggles of losing everything.
As night fell in the camp, so to did my journey to the tsunami. What I saw there was nothing short of horrific - miles of land, homes and places of business devastated by the unstoppable power of an earthquake and tsunami, thousands left dead, many more missing and most likely never to be seen again. It will take months, maybe years, for Palu and Indonesia to recover from this. However, knowing that we are helping the victims to rebuild their lives is a great blessing and comfort.

Muslim Hands UK

Established in 1993, Muslim Hands is an aid agency and NGO helping those affected by poverty, conflict and natural disaster in over 20 countries worldwide.