Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Broken communication lines, bad roads and the navigation of dangerous rivers do not stop the humanitarian mission of Catholic volunteers in Central Sulawesi, a province devastated by the earthquakes and tsunami of last September 28th.
Before the disaster, it took three hours to travel by car, to cover the approximately 90 km of distance that separate the center of Palu, provincial capital, to its more peripheral districts. The epicenter of the emergency is located in the territory of the diocese of Manado (North Sulawesi) which, together with the Catholics of other circumscriptions, has implemented initiatives and fundraisers to support the survivors.
At the moment, a task force is working in the field that brings together volunteers from different organizations. These are: the Commission for the socio-economic development of the diocese of Manado (Pse); Caritas Indonesia (Karina Kwi), together with the Caritas of the archdiocese of Makassar (South Sulawesi), Semarang (Central Java) and the dioceses of Bandung (West Java), Tanjung Karang (Lampung); the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS); medical groups from Manado, Surabaya (East Java) and Jakarta.
Pipit Prahoro, a member of the humanitarian agency of the archdiocese (Ldd Kaj) and father of four children is from Jakarta. Together with the other Catholic volunteers, he took part in a two-day expedition, organized to bring aid to the villages of Kulawi, about 85 km south of Palu.
Prahoro spoke to AsiaNews about the difficult journey, which started from the parish of the Sacred Heart of Mary. Located in the heart of the city, immediately after the earthquake, the church has become an operational center for the diocese of Manado relief coordination.
“We left the parish about midday, on board a convoy of 4×4 vehicles – says the volunteer – On the slopes of Mount Potong, the main roads were not accessible, however, due to the serious landslides”. The situation then worsened, when suddenly it started raining heavily. The off-road voyage, van and motorcycles only resumed six hours later, when the volunteers managed to clear the way.
“The earthquake caused landslides in at least 16 locations – continues Prahoro – Our journey depended on the equipment and heavy vehicles that were leading the group”. Thanks to the help of some Catholics from Kulawi, who identified alternative routes, the volunteers reached their destination at nine o’clock in the evening.
There are 11 Catholic families living in Kulawi, but in the remote village of Sangali, near Olu (Lindu sub-district), there are at least 30 in desperate need of assistance. “We had a moral obligation to reach that location, which is another 34 km away”, says Prahoro. The first and third part of the route (17 and 7 km) required the use of motorcycles, the second (20 km) of agile river boats, for about 35 minutes of navigation.
“We transported basic necessities on board our motorcycles – concludes Prahoro – these are shipped to different locations on Lake Lindu, so they are ready for use when volunteers have to reach the most remote areas of the region. Getting to Olu made us very happy. At the same time, it was painful to see our Catholic brothers in such unfortunate conditions “.
(Photo credit: Pipit Prahoro).