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Masjid Raya Meulaboh, January 2005


Boat thrown into the city of Meulaboh, West Aceh on December 26th, 2004 by tsunami waves.

Boat thrown into the city of Meulaboh, West Aceh on December 26th, 2004 by tsunami waves.

Boat thrown inland in Meulaboh, West Aceh on December 26th 2004 from tsunami waves.

Boat thrown inland in Meulaboh, West Aceh on December 26th, 2004 by tsunami waves.

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Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem
Published on 7th May 2005/28 Rabi ul Awal, 1426

A Story of Meulaboh

Cerita Dari Meulaboh

"Is it true, that everyone is dead?"

By Savic Alielha

Translated by Benny Ohorella-Indonesia. Acknowledgements to Diskusi Fatimah, IISB &Penerjemah-net.

A true and personal account of the actions of a volunteer following the earthquake and tsunami  tragedy in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalem in Indonesia of 26th December, 2004 which resulted in phenomenal loss of life and property loss. Meulaboh was the city closest to the epicentre and suffered the greatest loss.

Banda Aceh Refugee Camp after the tsunami, Dec 2005. Photo credit: S. Abidin

Walking down the south coast of Aceh Darussalam, we found fishing boats scattered far from the shore, destroyed houses, cars and motorcycles turned upside down, piles of debris and garbage, decomposed corpses spreading a choking stench, and people with empty expressions and without hope. Those are what I saw when I first set foot on Aceh on January 1, 2005.

I left Jakarta on December 29, we were stuck in Medan for one day waiting for the ship who brought our supplies. However, losing contact with the ship which anchored in God only knows which port, I was sure that it would not come and so decided to travel to Singkil instead. This was the only logical path to get to Meulaboh at that time. I left Medan accompanied by Arif, an Acehnese friend of mine and Andi, the General Secretary of FPPI Medan.

After 18 hours, we arrived in Singkil. Quite confused, we could not find any emergency stations around Singkil's port. The land route was cut off at Bakongan, so the only possible way was using the sea route. But, no one dared to set sail, everybody was afraid with the subsequent tremors. We finally met with other volunteers who told us that they had been stuck there for two days. In the afternoon, we were lucky, we found a medium sized boat in quite good condition, but there was no captain. But, again, finally we found someone who could be the captain, a Batak with a full beard and an exceptional sense of humour, enough to cool down the tension.

It was an anxious and frightening moment when my friends and I set sail. A dozen people waved at the port, saying their prayers which touched my emotion deeply and also made me feel an eeriness. We set sail at 10 pm, nobody spoke during the first hour even our funny captain. Everybody sat tight without a sound.  But as the night got darker, the stars and the moon began to look brighter, they created a relaxing aura.  Even when the captain said, "I have not sailed to Labuhan Haji in the last 4 years, the route is dangerous", we still felt relaxed and just laughed. And we got lost indeed, the usual 9 hours sail was lengthened to 15 hours.

Nanggroe Aceh Darusalam At 3 pm we finally arrived in Labuhan Haji, South Aceh. The scene of the disaster was already visible but it was bigger than I had imagined. Faraway inland, we found wrecked ships and boats, vast empty areas where there used to be houses and several small refugee camps around. All was too quiet. We could not find a truck to take us and all of these help supplies to Meulaboh, so I decided to go to Tapaktuan, the capital of South Aceh regency where maybe I could find something or someone to help. I met with the regent, and he was willing to help find the truck we needed. A policeman helped me to go to Meulaboh with his patrol car.

Again, an aura of silence. Finally, the policeman who drove the car broke the silence. He told me that he lost a brother in Banda Aceh, and he was actually scared to go to Meulaboh as the route was not safe, it was a battle ground between the military and the separatist movement. He kept silent again. He switched on the car radio and turned it up loud. I also kept silent. He drove really fast, too fast for this condition. I think it compensated for his fear. After 3 hours, we entered the area of disaster: Nagan Raya regency, then West Aceh regency.  

Entering Meulaboh on  January 1, 2005, it was really eerie.  It was a city of death.  Simply no one, nothing alive. No electricity, no buildings, even no real road and everything was covered with debris, no one, nothing. The stench of corpses filled the air. We became disoriented and didn't know what to do, even my friend the policeman became confused.  He used his police radio to contact assistance and command, but no one was there. He could not do anything without any command he said. He began to be tense. 

We finally found Cut Nyak Dhien hospital. There was light from some part of the building, we rushed to that light, but again, no one there. "Is it true, that everyone is dead?". I asked this question in my mind.

After a while, two men with a motorcycle passed the hospital. They told me that everybody now stayed in the Regent's house. We followed them and it was true. There were quite a lot of refugees there. Thank God, there's still life.  There was no room at the Regent's house, so we went back to the hospital and slept in a bus parked in front of the hospital.

In the morning, the signs of life that I longed for finally appeared. On the streets, a lot of people dwelled with confusion and empty gazes. I went to the beach and just like in Nagan Raya, the houses were flattened to the ground. Houses that were still standing were too damaged to be used. Nearer to the beach the condition became worse. Corpses were scattered all around, most of them were unrecognizable because of severe injuries or final stages of decomposition. At the beach, I met a young man who was just sitting there in silence. I went near him and started a conversation.  He told me that all of his family were lost in the tsunami.  He survived the tsunami because he luckily was able to reach a plastic water container floating near him.  He was washed to the Local Parliament Building and was able to grab the building and climb onto its roof.  He was safe but he lost everything....

Bahasa Indonesia

Berjalanlah menyusuri pesisir selatan Aceh Darussalam, maka akan kita  temui kapal-kapal nelayan yang terdampar di daratan, rumah-rumah yang hancur, mobil-motor yang tak berbentuk, tumpukan sampah dan puing- puing, mayat-mayat membusuk keputih-putihan dengan aroma yang menyesakkan, dan orang-orang dengan tatapan mata kosong tanpa harapan.  Suasana itulah yang aku dapati ketika dua minggu lalu, tepatnya 1 Januari 2005, menginjakkan kaki di Aceh.

Berangkat dari Jakarta tgl 29 Desember, aku tertahan di Medan 1 hari: menunggu bantuan yang direncanakan datang. Namun begitu bantuan dipastikan tidak datang karena kapalnya berlabuh entah di mana, aku memutuskan untuk ke Singkil. Karena itulah jalur yang paling mungkin untuk sampai di Meulaboh saat itu. Ditemani Arif (temen Aceh) dan Andi (Sekjend FPPI Medan), aku berangkat. 18 jam perjalanan, kami sampai di Singkil. Sempet kebingungan kami di sana. Karena tidak posko apapun yang bisa ditemui di kawasan pelabuhan. Jalan darat terputus di Bakongan, dan satu-satunya jalan adalah lewat laut. Namun kendala muncul. Tidak ada kapal yang berani melaut. Nelayan masih takut akan kemungkinan terjadinya gempa susulan, seperti diberitakan media. Kami bertemu dengan relawan lokal Singkil yang juga ingin  mengirim bantuan ke Meulaboh. Sudah 2 hari mereka  tertahan di
pelabuhan, karena belum dapat kapal. Namun beruntung, sore kami dapat kabar bahwa mereka dapat kapal, namun belum dapat kapten (nahkoda) yang mau mengemudikan, karena sang kapten kapal tidak berani. Setelah mencari sana-sini, akhirnya nahkoda yang kami harap ketemu juga. Seorang batak berewokan, dengan selera humor yang cukup untuk menghilangkan ketegangan.

Momen pemberangkatan cukup menegangkan. Dilepas puluhan warga yang berkumpul di pelabuhan, berdoa, membuatku merinding dan terharu. Semua berharap gempa susulan yang diberitakan tidak terjadi. Kami berangkat pukul 10 malam. Dan selama 1 jam perjalanan kami diselimuti kebisuan. Duduk di tempat masing-masing. Namun begitu malam beranjak larut dan bintang bulan menampakkan sinarnya, suasana rileks mulai tercipta. Perjalanan yang diperkirakan hanya membutuhkan waktu 9 jam molor menjadi 15 jam. "Kita sempet tersesat dan mutar-mutar selama 3- 4 jam. Saya belum pernah berlayar sampai ke Labuhan Haji selama 4 tahun ini, karena itu daerah rawan," kata sang kapten.

Pukul 3 kami baru sampai Labuhan Haji, Aceh Selatan.Suasana bencana sudah terasa. Meski tidak sebesar yang aku perkirakan sebelumnya. Kapal-kapal terdampar di daratan, rusak, dan rumah-rumah di pinggir pantai jebol dinding-dindingnya. Di Labuhan Haji sepi, hanya ada beberapa titik pengungsi, dan kami tidak mendapatkan truk untuk mengangkut barang ke Meulaboh. Aku berinisiatif ke Tapak Tuan, Ibukota Aceh Selatan, untuk mencari dan mengirim informasi. Bupati Aceh Selatan bersedia mencarikan truk untuk mengangkut bantuan kami. Aku sendiri dari Tapak Tuan langsung menuju Meulaboh, menumpang mobil polisi.

Lagi-lagi, kebisuan tercipta. Polisi yang menyetir di sampingku, setelah bercerita kalo kakak kandungnya hilang di Banda Aceh dan dia sebenarnya takut untuk ke Meulaboh karena jalur ke sana relatif tidak aman, tidak lagi bicara. Hanya musik yang diputarnya keras-keras. Akupun diam. Suasana gelap dan dia menyetir kencang sekali. Seakan kompensasi dari ketakutannya. 3 jam perjalanan kami mulai memasuki kawasan utama bencana: kabupaten Nagan Raya, lalu kabupaten Aceh Barat. Memasuki Meulaboh pada saat itu, tanggal satu, memerindingkan bulu roma. Kita seakan memasuki kota mati, daerah tak berpenghuni. Suasana gelap karena listrik masih mati, dan tak satupun orang bisa kita jumpai. Polisi yang mengantarkupun tegang dan kebingungan. Tidak tahu harus kemana. Aku membayangkan semua penduduk mati, karena bau anyir menyengat di sana-sini. Namun ada harapan. Kami menjumpai RS Cut Nyak Dioen yang masih berdiri, dengan nyala lampu di beberapa ruangannya. Kami ke sana, namun tidak ada yang bisa ditemui. Suasana sepi. "Benarkah semua orang di sini sudah mati?" batinku.

Setelah beberapa lama 2 orang pengendara motor menghampiri. Mereka membawa kami ke kantor bupati, dan di sana ada banyak pengungsi. Ternyata masih ada kehidupan di sini. Setelah berbisik-bisik sana sini, kami kembali ke rumah sakit dan menginap disana. Aku tidur dibus yang terparkir di halaman.

Paginya, kehidupan yang aku tunggu datang. Di jalanan, sejumlah orang berlalu-lalang, dengan muka-muka bingung dan mengharukan. Aku bangun dan berjalan menuju pantai. Seperti di Nagan Raya, rumah-rumah di sinipun banyak hancur. Rumah-rumah yang tidak ambruk pun tampak sepi tak berpenghuni. Makin dekat ke arah pantai pemandangan kian menyedihkan. Mayat tergeletak di beberapa sudut jalan, putih membusuk, beberapa mengambang di rawa-rawa. Semua tidak bisa dikenali lagi rupanya. Di pinggir pantai aku bertemu seorang pemuda yang termangu di sebuah jembatan. Aku menghampirinya, bertanya, dan ia bercerita. Seluruh keluarga hilang ditelan ombak. Dia selamat karena kebetulan bisa meraih sebuah jerigen sehingga mengambang bersama air. Begitu mendekati bangunan tinggi (gedung DPRD), ia berenang dan hinggap di atap hingga air surut. Ia selamat, namun kehilangan


Author: Savic Alielha
Photographer: Hj. S.Abidin
Cartographer: Unknown
Translator: Benny Ohorella-Indonesia
Chief Editor: Hj Nurzaynab El-Fatah
Production: Hj S. Abidin
Published Date: 7th May 2005/ 28 Rabi ul Awal, 1426

Modification Date: 2nd February, 2009/ 6 Safar, 1430
Publication ID: 05ceritaMeul. A Story of Meulaboh (Cerita Dari Meulaboh)
Copyright: Victory News Magazine, 2010


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