Injured victims of Indonesia’s earthquake and tsunami rest at Sikakap clinic in the Mentawai district, in west Sumatra, Indonesia. A tsunami and volcanic eruptions have killed hundreds and displaced tens of thousands. CNS photo

JAKARTA – A double dose of natural disasters have led Catholic agencies working in Indonesia to mount several efforts to provide emergency services to victims.

The disasters – a magnitude 7.7 undersea earthquake on Oct 25 that triggered a tsunami that swamped coastal villages in the remote Mentawai Islands off the west coast of Sumatra and the eruption of a volcano on Java beginning Oct 26 – claimed more than 400 lives and displaced tens of thousands of people.

“Entire villages were swept away,” Xaverian Father Silvano Zulian, a missionary priest who has lived in the Mentawai Islands for more than 30 years, told MISNA, the missionary news service.

Local priests and women Religious were among the first to reach the affected communities, reported the Asian Church news agency UCA News.

“We came [to the villages] with whatever we had, especially medicine because there was no hospital,” said Fr Fransiskus Xaverius Wio Hurint Pei from the Assumption of Mary Church in Sikakap. He was accompanied by Charity of Jesus and Mary, Mother of Good Help nuns.

The priest said he helped bury victims. “It was very sad. ... bodies were scattered,” he said. “Survivors are having problems taking care of themselves.”

Fr Agustinus Mujihartono, head of the Padang diocesan Commission for Socio-Economic Development, said the Church’s Caritas network sent four volunteers to help collect information from survivors and distribute relief supplies.

The US Catholic Relief Services (CRS) also met with representatives of Caritas Switzerland, Secours Catholique/ Caritas France and officials from Padang diocese to discuss a coordinated response.

Meanwhile, Semarang archdiocese sent workers and emergency supplies to assist evacuees sheltered in makeshift tents following eruptions of Mount Merapi, Indonesia’s most active volcano.

“We set up soup kitchens at every community and an aid post in our parish compound,” Fr Petrus Sadjiyana of Assumption of Mary Church told UCA News.

Workers helped distribute basic necessities and drinking water to about 4,000 displaced people, the priest said. Caritas Indonesia also assisted evacuees.


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