Languages
Page last updated at 19:31 GMT, Saturday, 3 October 2009 20:31 UK

Inside Sumatra's devastated villages

House at the edge of a landslide in Pariaman
Many houses are teetering on the edge of landslides cause by the quake

By Alastair Leithead
Pariaman, western Sumatra

The closer you get to the earthquake's epicentre the worse the damage gets.

First the road becomes blocked to vehicles. Then even motorbikes cannot get through, and soon you can only walk and clamber over the landslides to reach the communities perhaps hardest hit by this disaster.

Homes were just swallowed up here as the quake shook the land from the hillsides, tearing down everything, destroying houses and crushing hundreds of people below tonnes of earth.

The size of the landslides is astonishing - massive tears in the jungle where soil and trees have been ripped from the slopes and dumped into the valleys.

Map

Dawianis Ardo is digging. Others are helping him - smashing concrete beams with the back of an axe, pulling at debris with wire cables and shifting bucket-loads of soil from the hole.

The patch of earth, trees and concrete is what is left of three homes. One was empty, but the two crushed into each other and buried with earth from the mountain were not.

Inside were nine adults and seven children - some of them playing marbles just outside the house when the earthquake struck.

"We found two bodies yesterday - they had been crushed to death - we expect to find the other 14 bodies today," he said.

They were his cousins.

"If we don't find them today I will dig for another five days - that will be a week - and then I will leave them to God."

Crushed to death

A path has been trodden across the face of the landslide where the road used to be and people were carefully making their way across.

I just sat here and prayed
Zaimar
Earthquake survivor

The situation just worsened further along the track - more houses flattened, more landslides scarring the hillside and wider cracks in the road.

Zaimar sat outside her collapsed home as the men dug at the crushed wooden beams to get out their food supplies and possessions.

She described what it was like when the quake hit, kneeling down and showing us how she sat to stop herself falling as the shockwave threw everything and everybody around.

She began to cry - to sob - as she remembered those terrifying moments when she was convinced the world was going to end.

"I just sat here and prayed," she said, still crying uncontrollably.

Her family were all unhurt, but the shock has affected her deeply and her neighbours lost relatives in the rubble.

Waiting for help

At another landslide an ornately tiled porch stands now like a platform overlooking the valley below.

The home which was behind it is crushed and buried, along with a family of 10 people.

Further along, the route is blocked by a house teetering on the edge of another gaping scar - the only way forward to the villages and communities ahead is through someone's front room.

One village is packed with people - all asking when the aid will come. A police helicopter circled overhead, suggesting they have not been forgotten about.

But they feel abandoned and alone. They have rice and basic supplies, but with no electricity and a road it will take many weeks to repair, they are afraid of their new-found isolation, hoping help will come to them soon.

Three-thousand dead is what the government has estimated.

Here amid the destroyed homes, with so many stories of relatives being buried alive, it seems as though it could be even more.



Print Sponsor



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC navigation

BBC © 2013 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific