Sulawesi quake: Children born aboard floating hospital in aftermath

A newborn baby onboard a floating hospital docked in Palu port on Oct 6, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

PALU, INDONESIA (AFP) - Ms Dinar was lucky to survive the Indonesian quake-tsunami that levelled her home.

But she didn't have much time to count her blessings - she was nine months pregnant and about to give birth in a disaster zone.

The 38-year-old confronted a terrifying scene: The city of Palu was in ruins, its damaged hospitals overflowed with injured patients and doctors treated the wounded outside in the cracked, rubble-strewn streets.

"I was so worried after the earthquake," she told AFP. "I had so much on my mind."

But then a miracle arrived out of the blue in devastated Palu port - the KRI Dr Soeharso, an Indonesian naval ship, kitted out with a top-rate medical clinic.

Ms Dinar was rushed aboard and safely delivered her fifth child on Friday (Oct 5), a week after the twin disaster levelled parts of the city on Sulawesi island, killing more than 1,600 people.

"I am so happy, and lucky this ship was here," she said.

Ms Dinar named her newborn daughter Suharsi - a feminine adaptation of Soeharso, after the ship where she gave birth.

The warship was moored in Bali, at the ready ahead of an International Monetary Fund conference slated for the holiday island next week.

But it charted a course for disaster-struck Sulawesi after Palu suffered a double blow on Sept 28 that wiped villages off the map and left the coastal city cripplingly short on doctors and medical supplies.


A local doctor stepped up to deliver Ms Dinar's baby, and three others so far born aboard the Soeharso since the quake, when an urgent call went out for an obstetrician.

Dr Sasono, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, packed up whatever belongings remained after the quake and prepared to flee Palu with his wife and two children when he heard the appeal.

"I saw so many people in need of help coming to the hospital so I abandoned plans to evacuate with my family and wanted to assist," he said.

"Of course, I was afraid of staying back to help when there were still tremors. It was my first time helping deliver a baby aboard a ship."

One of the children born aboard died shortly after birth - compounding a tragedy for the parents who survived the trauma of the quake.

"We bought baby clothes and everything. But God had a different plan," said the mother, Ms Kusniran.

For Ms Huzria, who gave birth to a healthy child last Sunday on the floating hospital, it was the second miracle in as many days.

She had been on the beach as the quake hit - and watched in horror as the ocean began bubbling and receding before it crested into the tsunami that roared towards the coastline.

Many were too slow and died on the sand.

But Ms Huzria, aided by her husband, managed to hobble to safety, reaching a hilltop from where they could survey the destruction unfolding below.

"Now, I can breathe easily," the 33-year-old told AFP. "I am so happy."

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