Flash floods, landslides traumatize Catholics in Indonesia

ON EASTER SUNDAY, FLASH FLOODS AND LANDSLIDES, which were caused by two days of heavy rain due to the Seroja tropical cyclone, hit Indonesia’s predominantly Catholic province of East Nusa Tenggara. The disasters killed at least 178 people and damaged 271 homes and 99 public facilities. More than 8,000 people were evacuated, and 45 people are reported missing. The disasters have left many people traumatized, including Michael Ola Ladopurab, a 51-year-old Catholic who lost a child and two grandchildren. He spoke with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN):

“I was visiting a relative when the disasters occurred. Her house is located about 100 feet from where my home was. I rushed home. But when I got there, my house was already totally damaged.

“I ran to save my wife and three children as well as two grandchildren, but the current was too strong so that I could not save them. Thankfully, my neighbors were able to my wife and first child, a 17-year-old boy. I found my third child, an 8-year-old girl the next day.

“It was so sad that my second child and grandchildren could not be saved. I was still grateful, though, that their bodies could be found by rescuers. They found my grandchildren’s bodies three days after the disasters occurred. I found my third child’s body a day later. I have buried them.

“My wife is now treated at a hospital. She had spinal surgery because of the disasters. My first son and third daughter are also treated in a hospital. My third daughter’s right leg had to be amputated.

“I am completely traumatized by what happened that night. I told doctors that I could not think of anything. Just a blank mind. I could not even think of my wife and two children who are hospitalized. I do not know what to do.

Michael Ola Ladopurab

“I have received clothes from donors and the Social Affairs Ministry as well. Thank you for that. I also thank doctors who have so far helped my wife and two children. The treatment charges are covered by the government.

“Now I need help from many people to continue to live my life. I do need a place to live now. My house, which was located just 10 feet from the riverbank, has gone. I am just a farmer. What I have in mind now is to build a small hut where we can live while waiting for the government to build houses for victims who lost their homes.

“I do hope that both central and local governments as well as the society at large can help us cope with the traumatic incident. There is no psychological help yet. All I can do is to pray to God that he will heal me and clear my mind. Father Arnoldus ‘Noldy’ Guna Koten is always with us. I hope the Catholic Church will be able to fill the gap.”

Father Noldy, parish priest at St. Mary Star of the Sea Church in Waipukang in the Lembata district, has been visiting victims. He also spoke to ACN:

“I am based close to the victims. I took the initiative, in coordination with the local Catholic Church. I visit them and distribute material aid to them. I invite my parishioners to give what they can to help the victims. I also ask help from my fellow priests and missionaries.

“What people need most is daily necessities, such as rice. Donors from different areas have been distributing daily necessities to the victims. Now we are thinking of building houses. In this case, there has been a coordination with the Social Affairs Ministry. According to our data, at least 500 houses must be built.”

—Roselina Karel