In the aftermath of a natural disaster such as the earthquake in Palu, radio can be a lifeline. 'First Response Indonesia' is Feba's emergency radio partner in Indonesia, and they deployed to Sulawesi last week. We're pleased to report that there has been real progress in the past few days.

The First Response Indonesia team arrived in Palu on Friday 5th October, having managed to catch a commercial flight from Balikpapan airport. The arrivals area in Palu airport was empty of people, except for a few workers clearing debris and repairing the damaged ceilings. It was a long trip for the team members – having travelled from different parts of the country, but they moved immediately into the next steps to finalise and implement a plan for supporting the affected communities with life-saving radio.

Unfortunately, the FRI team’s personal luggage and their equipment did not arrive with them on Friday in Palu. Thankfully there was only a slight delay and it arrived safely on Saturday 6th October. Even without their equipment, the team set about connecting with local radio station Nebula FM and finding out about the general media situation from PRSSNI (Commercial Radio Network of Indonesia). They were informed that 20 local private stations were off air including Radio Nebula. After a very tiring day of difficult travel and intense meetings, the team members were glad of sleep. Team leader Jose said:

Indonesia's First Response Team finally decided to rest the night with fellow journalists, national and international, on the Radio Nebula site. We looked up at the sky as we began our first night of sleep in the grieving city of Palu. The sky looked quite bright, although there was still some cloud. Hopefully this is a good sign: although there is a cloud of sorrow in this city, there is still a light of hope to rise again. We pray that this situation will soon pass and the lives of people can run normally again.

Sunday morning saw a significant development: FRI began broadcasting via Radio Nebula in Palu at 6am on Sunday morning local time. Calls started 'pouring in non-stop' from 7am as community members shared their needs with the radio team, asking them to pass on the information to the government. The team also distributed an initial 200 radio receivers to affected households.

As has been experienced in previous responses elsewhere, local authorities and agencies quickly recognise the value and potential of the radio broadcasts: when a government official heard that a local radio was on air and doing humanitarian broadcasting, he came to the studio and asked to address the public through the radio.

FRI are broadcasting in partnership with Radio Nebula, the local station they first made contact with on Saturday. The power at the station was restored on Sunday and all the necessary equipment is functioning. The station's temporary strapline is ‘Radio Nebula FM - raising up Palu - with First Response Indonesia’.

Jose (pictured above) is the FRI Team Leader. He has written a very moving and powerful personal account of his first impressions from Palu, some of which we share below:

"As our feet stepped closer to the Balaroa residential area, our hearts felt tight, because in front of us were soaring gracefully beautiful hills, but on the left and right along the road there were houses scattered, crushed by earthquakes: a contrasting scene, between beauty and horror. Torn between the desire to admire the beautiful nature of Palu, or feel trembling with the disaster that has just ravaged this city; this is a dilemma when walking deeper into the Disaster Zone. The face of God as reflected by Rudolf Otto, in his book "The Idea of ​​the Holy", which depicts an awesome-looking God (fascinosum) and also a thrilling face (tremendum), as we find his shadow in this zone.

Torn between the desire to admire the beautiful nature of Palu, or feel trembling with the disaster that has just ravaged this city; this is a dilemma when walking deeper into the Disaster Zone.

"The exotic nature of Palu, such as Palu Bay, with rows of malls, shops, houses, business centers, hotels, cafes, and parks that beautify the shoreline, with families, young couples, children playing while listening the impact of waves on the sea wall - of course, for anyone will be fascinated by the beauty of Palu. However, behind this beautiful face, nature turns out to be a thrilling force. At least that's what I saw at the Balaroa National Park. There are thousands of families, their houses are flat on the ground. The horror that makes us ask “what really happened?”.

"The survivors told me that when the earthquake rocked Palu and its surroundings, in just seconds suddenly the land split and all the housing in the area was like swallowing the earth to a depth of eight meters. Not only that, but because it was dusk, when families were lighting stoves to cook or just heating food scraps, the stoves simultaneously exploded and burned whatever was there. That is the situation told by the citizens: after being rocked by a massive earthquake, they were swallowed up by the earth and set on fire. Now there are still thousands of bodies buried beneath the bowels of the earth at the Balaroa National Park. The rancid smell of corpses in some places still smelled sharply. During the day the sun was so hot it stung the bones, making the evacuation effort so heavy. A father was seen crying on the edge of his house while trying to scavenge the ruins of his house. And his wife, when her child is buried alive down there.

Even though humans are vulnerable, humans are never by themselves; our creator God is still present, accompanying and sprinkling hope.

"The more we walk into the disaster zone, we are also increasingly walking into a deeper reflection of life. In all things we cannot understand what God's plan is. But in many ways we can see the traces of God even in times of trouble. In all things we can also find God present, in the form of happiness and suffering. Getting into the danger zone, we finally realize that humans are fragile and vulnerable. Nature is not our enemy. Its strength is not commensurate with our strength. Tall buildings with steel wires and walking concrete that we built turned out to be unable to resist the desires of nature in motion. Everything collapsed and was torn to dust. Even though humans are vulnerable, humans are never by themselves; our creator God is still present, accompanying and sprinkling hope. He slipped the tones of consolation in each melancholy song because of the pain we experienced."

Jose, FRI Team Leader

Let’s join the FRI team in raising up Palu with our prayers, as we remember the many thousands of grieving families across the area. We continue to pray for the safety of the team – physically, mentally and spiritually – living and working in demanding conditions, that they would know God’s protection and strength. Please also pray that FRI can access a reliable generator, as the team could not bring their own normal generator with them.

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All photo credits and copyright: First Response Radio

Source of Jose's content: (accessed 8th October 2018)

Page first published: 8th October 2018