Preparing for the future

It’s just over two years since the Mentawai tsunami in October 2010 and it’s inspiring to see the resilience of the local people who have managed to pick themselves up and move forward.

The disaster killed more than 500 people and left thousands homeless. SurfAid embarked on a one-year recovery program to help them get back on their feet.

Communications director Kirk Willcox returned to the field recently with a filmmaker Sascha Ettinger Epstein. He writes:

One place we visited was Sioban, which is the main town in South Sipora serviced by a local ferry. We caught the ferry from Tua Pejat with our Mentawai Emergency Preparedness program manager Mario.

In Sioban, we met up E-Prep field officer Joni and a local SurfAid volunteer, Yusran Yunus. Yusran, 43, is a construction contractor and he also owns a warung (shop).

The 2010 tsunami didn’t affect Sioban but the devastation on the other side of Sipora, and down in the Pagais to the south, really put Yusran into action. First he did a five-day training course in psychological first aid and then he set about building a temporary village up in the hills – a safe place for the locals to live in case their village is wiped out by earthquake or tsunami.

The temporary village will hold 600 people and there are free range chickens, banana trees and water. And they were building a helipad.

“If the port is destroyed, emergency teams won’t be able to get supplies in,” Yusran said. “We saw that when the tsunami hit the Pagai Islands to the south they used helicopters to get in supplies and take out seriously injured people, so we’re getting prepared.”

Research shows that $1 spent in preparation for a disaster saves $10 in recovery.

If a large earthquake hits, the local residents will first move to higher ground up clearly marked evacuation paths in case a tsunami follows. If their village is destroyed, they will move further up the hills to the temporary village.

Meanwhile SurfAid is continuing its E-Prep training in Sioban to set up and train disaster management teams. All the villagers involved in the program are volunteers – freely giving up their time so as to serve their community. And the word is spreading.