02 January 2019

“I was taking a bath when the tsunami hit. The weather was too humid for me,” Elis, a 30-year-old mother who is also 7 months pregnant, narrated.

Elis and her family were at home when the tsunami hit the coast of Sunda Strait on that fateful day of 22 December 2018. Their home was located on the shorelines of Laba Kampong, Cigondang Village, Labuan Subdistrict. They lived just next door to the home of her parents.

MSF< Doctors Without Borders, Indonesia, Tsunami
Elis, a 30-year-old mother who is also 7 months pregnant. Despite the
trauma she experienced during the Sunda Strait tsunami, she thinks positively and only wants to
make sure that the baby in her womb is healthy. Photo: Cici Riesmasari/MSF

When the first wave hit, Elis’ husband, Purwanto cried out: “Tsunami! Tsunami!” He shouted a warning to Elis and rushed to their daughter and his in-laws, who were next door, so they could seek safety. “When my husband shouted, I put on my clothes as fast as I could. When he was going back inside the house to help me, the second and bigger wave hit our house,” she explained.

The strong wave, taller than a nearby power pole and about 7 to 12 meters high, destroyed their house and reduced it to rubble. Purwanto, 35 years old, got injured when his left thigh was hit by the tin roof of their house. Elis was trapped inside the house by a cupboard and desk, and the rubble that was left of their home.

“I tried hard to protect my pregnant belly so that it would not be hit by anything. I could not see my daughter. I could not see my mom and dad. What I heard was my husband’s voice calling me,” she narrated. 

MSF, Doctors Without Borders, Indonesia, Tsunami
Dr. Patrick Indradjaja of MSF (middle) is redressing the wound of Elis’ mother
(left) which was caused by the tsunami that destroyed her house on 22 December. Photo: Cici Riesmasari/MSF

Fortunately, even injured, Purwanto was able to save Elis. However, when they could not find their daughter and their elderly parents, they were forced to walk away from their destroyed home and head to the Labuan health centre, all the while thinking that their family members could be dead.

The tsunami separated Elis’ family

Elis and Purwanto walked 2 kilometres towards the health centre in Labuan. Along the way, they met a man in a motorbike who offered them a ride to the centre. Once there, they saw a lot of people who were injured like them and awaiting treatment. While waiting, they kept on trying to get information about their family.

“That night, we finally got word that our daughter was safe and she was with my sister,” Elis narrated with relief. The following day, Elis and Purwanto met Elis’ mom and dad who were also injured quite badly. “Thank God, our family members were safe despite their injuries,” Elis sighed. 

MSF, Doctors Without Borders, Indonesia, Tsunami
A tsunami hit along the coast of Sunda Strait on 22 December 2018 at 21:27 hours (local time), affecting five districts in
Banten and Lampung provinces, with Pandeglang District as the most affected. Photo: Cici Riesmasari/MSF

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) support to tsunami victims

Elis and her husband were treated by the MSF team at the Labuan health centre. “I met Ibu Dina (the MSF midwife) and Doctor Santi at the Labuan Health Center on Sunday,” Elis remembered. “They checked my condition and that of the baby. I had bruises with some swelling almost all over my body. But thank God, my baby is okay,” she said with a smile.

The MSF team that attended Elis ensured her medical care. She stayed at the Labuan Health Centre for the next three days. Meanwhile, they referred Purwanto and Elis’ mother to the hospital in Pandeglang as their injuries were quite severe. Her father was also referred to the same hospital due to an injury on his left hand.

Since February 2018, MSF has been in Pandeglang District for an Adolescent Health Project that they were working on in collaboration with the Indonesian Ministry of Health. Hours after the tsunami hit, the emergency medical team of MSF visited and immediately supported the health centres in Labuan and Carita, two of the most affected areas.

MSF, Doctors Without Borders, Indonesia, Tsunami
One of MSF team, Ahmad Suryadi, is interviewing one of the communities in Kampung Batu Hideung Kampong, Tanjung Jaya Village, 
in Panimbang Sub district, Pandeglang District. Photo: Dirna Mayasari/MSF

MSF has also been operating a mobile clinic to reach evacuation centres or shelters as well as host communities in Labuan and Carita. Most of the people staying in these areas were not able to access medical services and their injuries from the tsunami remained untreated. On the eight days of the MSF response, the MSF team visited Elis and her family at the home of her older sister where they were temporarily staying after Elis was released from the health centre, and after her husband and parents were released from the hospital. 

The team checked the injuries of Elis, Purwanto, and their parents. Their wounds were redressed and their bandages replaced. “We really want to have a new place soon. I know it is stressful now, but I don’t want my trauma to affect my baby. I am okay now,” said Elis.

MSF, Doctors Without Borders, Indonesia, Tsunami
MSF team visited one of the survivors in an evacuation camp at Susukan Kampong, Sukarame Village, Carita Sub district.
Here they met a 13-year-old adolescent who is also a beneficiary of the MSF adolescent health project in Banten. Photo: Muhamad Suryandi/MSF

The tsunami affected five districts in Banten and Lampung provinces in Indonesia. Among these, the Pandeglang District was the most affected. The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) confirmed that the tsunami was caused by the eruption of the Anak Krakatau volcano which triggered an underwater landslide.

As of 28 December 2018, 01:30 pm, BNPB reported that the number of displaced people is now at 40,386, with more than 80 percent of those displaced coming from Pandeglang District in Banten Province. The death toll has increased to 426; there are now 7,202 injured; 23 people missing, and 1,296 houses damaged.

Find out more about MSF's work in Indonesia