‘Not enough food and medicine, they are cold’: Maid says relatives crammed into tent after Java quake

(From left) Ms Dian Rodiah, her parents and her daughter, with her nephew (forefront) in a photo taken during Hari Raya in 2019.. The house (right) of Ms Dian's sister-in-law, Ms Nia, was flattened by the temblor and the family was moved to a makeshift shelter. PHOTOS: DIAN RODIAH

SINGAPORE - After learning of the 5.6-magnitude earthquake that hit her hometown on Monday afternoon, Indonesian maid Dian Rodiah spent seven frantic hours trying to contact her family.

While running errands in Singapore, she repeatedly rang her parents, who live in the Cianjur regency – the epicentre of the West Java earthquake – but her calls could not get through.

“I was very shocked when I heard the news about the quake from my friend in Cianjur. I was anxious all day,” said Ms Dian, 44, whose employers are a British-Japanese couple living in Tiong Bahru.

At around 8.30pm on Monday, her mother finally answered her call, although the connection was choppy.

The quake had severely disrupted telecommunications and electricity. Cianjur is located about 75km south of Jakarta and her parents live in the regency’s Cibeber district.

Her mother told her that their house was still intact, and that only the television set and some vases broke due to the tremors. But her relatives were not as lucky.

Ms Dian’s nephew, who lives with her parents, later told her that her sister-in-law’s house, situated on hilly terrain, was flattened by the temblor and the family of four was moved to a makeshift shelter.

The house of her sister-in-law, Ms Nia, had concrete walls, bamboo reinforcements and corrugated metal sheets for the roof. Ms Nia’s husband, the family’s sole breadwinner, works in a wet market.

“I felt very sad. Nia’s family does not have much income. It is hard to get money for food and, now their house is destroyed,” said Ms Dian.

She later learnt that Ms Nia, 48, and her husband had gone out and left their two children at home. Their nine-year-old son was hit by a brick when the house came crashing down. He suffered some bleeding.

“Nia’s husband was in the wet market when he heard about the earthquake. He thought his children had died when the house fell and he collapsed in the market,” added Ms Dian.

Fortunately, Ms Nia’s 16-year-old daughter and the son managed to scramble out of the house before it turned into a pile of rubble.

Her husband got a lift back to where their house once stood and was later reunited with Ms Nia and their children at a makeshift shelter nearby.

They are among more than 61,000 who were displaced from their homes by the earthquake. At least 272 people were killed and thousands were injured. The quake damaged more than 56,000 houses, CNN reported.

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Ms Dian’s friend – the one who had told her about the quake – has been visiting Ms Nia and her family at the shelter every day to give the maid an update on the situation.

“The conditions at the shelter are not very good... It’s crowded and small. There is not enough food and medicine because the place is remote and the roads leading to it have collapsed,” said Ms Dian.

The family eats uncooked instant noodles because hot water is not available. “They ate noodles like crackers,” Ms Dian added.

“It was raining on Wednesday. They were wet and cold.”

Ms Dian and her domestic worker friends in Singapore are raising money to help her sister-in-law’s family and others in the makeshift shelter.

Meanwhile, the volleyball team she plays with will hold a charity tournament to separately raise money for the earthquake victims on Dec 4.

Ms Dian, who has been working in Singapore for 15 years, is part of a large group of foreign maids who meet in Kallang on their days off to play volleyball.

A portion of the funds raised from the tournament will go towards helping Ms Nia’s family and others at the shelter.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Thursday that the Government will contribute US$100,000 (S$137,500) to the Singapore Red Cross (SRC) to support disaster relief and humanitarian efforts in West Java.

This adds to the US$50,000 that SRC had pledged on Wednesday to support the earthquake survivors and communities.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said on Thursday that it is ready to provide urban search and rescue, or humanitarian relief assistance, if requested.  

“The SCDF has been monitoring the situation in Indonesia closely, including through the Asean Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management,” said the SCDF spokesman.

While Ms Nia’s family is taking things one day at a time at the shelter, her relatives in Jakarta have asked the family to move to the city once transportation improves.

“But Nia and her husband don’t want to leave Cianjur,” said Ms Dian. “They said their house is there and they want to rebuild it.”

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