Mass prayer marks one year since Indonesia quake-tsunami disaster

Survivors of the 2018 earthquake-triggered tsunami attend a mass prayer to commemorate the disaster in Palu, Central Sulawesi, on September 28, 2019. – Thousands attended a mass prayer in the devastated Indonesian city of Palu on September 28, one year after a quake-tsunami swallowed up whole neighbourhoods and killed more than 4,000 people. (Photo by OLAGONDRONK / AFP)
Survivors of the 2018 earthquake-triggered tsunami attend a mass prayer to commemorate the disaster in Palu, Central Sulawesi, on September 28, 2019. – Thousands attended a mass prayer in the devastated Indonesian city of Palu on September 28, one year after a quake-tsunami swallowed up whole neighbourhoods and killed more than 4,000 people. (Photo by OLAGONDRONK / AFP)

Thousands attended a mass prayer in the devastated Indonesian city of Palu on Saturday, one year after a quake-tsunami swallowed up whole neighborhoods and killed more than 4,000 people.

Many in the crowd sobbed as they remembered victims of the 7.5 magnitude quake and subsequent deluge that razed swathes of the coastal city on Sulawesi island last September.

Some 4,300 people were listed as dead or missing while nearly 60,000 people are still living in makeshift accommodation after their homes were destroyed, according to the Red Cross.

The force of the impact saw entire neighborhoods leveled, with the earth turning to quicksand.

Elsa Lawira, whose seven-year-old son died in the disaster, was among some 3,000 people at Saturday’s vigil, which was held in badly-hit Balaroa district.

“The past year has been traumatic,” the 36-year-old Lawira told AFP as she sobbed.

“My only wish is that God will protect my son and a disaster like this never happens again.”

Former Balaroa resident Lusiana lost her mother, father, and a sibling in the double catastrophe.

“My life has been just empty this past year,” she said.

The disaster also destroyed fishing boats, shops, and irrigation systems, robbing many locals of their income.

Rebuilding has been slow, and some people — still living in temporary shelters — wonder if they’ll ever have a home again.

“I’ve been living in this tent since the quake struck,” said Ela, a mother of four.

“It’s been really hard. My kids got sick, it’s hot and sometimes we have to sleep on wet ground after it rains. The kids’ father is still working but we can’t afford to buy mattresses,” she added.

Nani, another mother of four kids, said her home was destroyed.

“I don’t know if I’m going to get permanent housing,” she added.

Hundreds of damaged schools across the region have not been repaired.

Many “are so badly affected they remain too dangerous to use, forcing children to learn in temporary classrooms where they have to attend in shifts due to a lack of space,” Save the Children said Saturday.

Earlier the World Bank offered the country up to $1 billion in loans to get the city back on its feet.

Indonesia is one of the most disaster-prone nations on earth because it straddles the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, where tectonic plates collide.

The Southeast Asian archipelago is also dotted with more than 100 volcanoes, including one that erupted between Java and Sumatra in late 2018 and unleashed a tsunami that killed more than 400 people.

On Boxing Day 2004, a 9.1-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Sumatra and triggered a tsunami that killed 220,000 across the Indian Ocean region, including around 170,000 in Indonesia.

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