Children Returning To School After Killer Earthquake
After the earthquake that killed 1,763, children in the Indonesian city of Palu on Monday started returning to school to tidy up their classrooms.
The children are also to help gather data on how many of them will be coming back 10 days after a major earthquake and tsunami hit their city.
The 7.5 magnitude quake on Sept. 28 brought down many buildings in the small city on Sulawesi island, 1,500 km (30 miles) northeast of Jakarta, while tsunami waves smashed into its beachfront.
But the biggest killer was probably soil liquefaction, which happens when a powerful quake turns the ground into a liquid mire and which obliterated several Palu neighborhoods.
No one knows how many people are missing, especially in the areas hit by liquefaction, but it could be as high as 5,000, the national disaster agency said.
At one state high school, teenagers dressed in gray and white uniforms swept up broken glass in the classrooms. Trophies had fallen from a broken school showcase and the basketball court was cracked.
“It’s sad to see our school like this,” said Dewi Rahmawati, 17, who expects to graduate next year and wants to study economics at university.
The students found out that they had to turn up to school through messages on Facebook and WhatsApp.
School principal Kasiludin said authorities told all teachers to show up for work from Monday to collect information on student numbers.
“We won’t force the students to come back because many are traumatized. But we must start again soon to keep their spirits up and so they don’t fall behind,” he said.
The school had lost at least seven students and one teacher, he said.
School principal Abdul Rashid said he was aware of four students killed in the quake.
“Classes haven’t started. We’re only collecting data to find out how many students are safe,” he said.
“I’m still waiting for the Ministry of Education to give us instructions on when to begin classes. For now, I don’t think we’re ready. Many children are traumatized and frightened.”
One boy chatting in the school compound with friends said he was disappointed that so few of his class mates had shown up.
“I haven’t heard from so many of them. I want to think positively; I hope they are OK,” said Muhamad Islam Bintang Lima, dressed in the school uniform of white shirt and navy blue trousers.
Most of the dead from the quake and tsunami were in Palu, the region’s main urban center. Figures for more remote areas are trickling in but they seem to have suffered fewer deaths than the city.