ACTNews, PALU – On that unfortunate Friday (9/28), Bachtiar Darwis was getting ready to pray Maghrib in Masjid Jamik Pantoloan in Palu, Central Sulawesi. In the west side of the mosque, Palu Bay could be seen. Across the water, Mount Gawalise was standing tall as the sun was slowly hiding behind it, leaving only goldish rays.
The call to prayer was made, calling the Muslims to pray. Worshippers slowly flocked to the mosque and started making their ritual ablution in Masjid Jamik Pantoloan, located close to Pantoloan Harbor, Palu. The horns of the ships were heard as they were making their entrance to the harbor.
Darwis (45) was solemnly listening to the muezzin. He sat in the mosque, cross-legged. Shortly afterwards, the ground was shaking. “The earthquake was strong, even stronger than the quakes few hours earlier,” remembered Darwis as he told Aksi Cepat Tanggap (ACT) team, Wednesday (10/17).
Trying to hold his tears, Darwis told the story of how he tried to save his mother when the earthquake and tsunami hit. The short pauses between the sentences he uttered showed a great sorrow that he was trying to heal.
When the earthquake was shaking, Darwis immediately ran outside the mosque. He tried to save his mother Saida Mastura who was ill. He could not run straight as the ground beneath him was violently shaking.
Mastura (73) was already outside of their house when Darwis finally arrived. Mastura, who was already too frail to stand upright, tried hard to save herself. “Even without earthquake, my mother was already too old and weak to walk,” said Darwis.
As the night was falling, the electricity turned off, and the water in Palu Bay was building up into a massive tsunami wave. Darwis tried to carry his mother to safety, far away from the beach. “But I felt like I was not trying hard enough. I lost my mother,” said Darwis.
The tsunami smashed everything along its way including Darwis, Mastura, and other people along the beaches of Palu and Donggala. The massive wave had separated Darwis from his mother.
“I got separated from my mother as the wave smashed suddenly. I regained consciousness when my mother was already not with me. I could not see anything in the water,” he said.
Buildings were destroyed, trees were uprooted. Even the boats who were anchored off the harbor were carried onto the soil. “I was carried for 150 meters away from my house. My right leg was hit by a piece of ruin of a ship and zinc sheets,” said Darwis, pointing at the location where he was stranded near Pantoloan Harbor.
There seemed to be no one around him, including his mother. Shortly, however, cries for help were heard from beneath the ruins.
The light of torches was seen from afar, lighting up the spot where Darwis lied. With a little strength left in him, he also tried to cry for help. “Someone helped me, carried be on a stretcher made of a sarong that was tied onto two bamboo poles. My leg was injured; my hands and face were full of blood,” he showed us his wound.
His mother was still missing even when Darwis was finally treated in Madani Hospital. His remaining family members tried to look for Mastura. On the third day, they visited Darwis only to tell him that his mother was still nowhere to be found.
Darwis, who had lived in Pantoloan for thirty years, did not know exactly how high was the wave. According to eye witnesses, however, the height of the tsunami reached the top of the coconut trees.
On the fourth day, Tuesday (10/4), Mastura was finally found dead. It was a hard blow for Darwis. His mother’s body was found only 50 meters away from their house. “I have let my mother go. Her demise will be a lesson for me to be better,” concluded Darwis with teary eyes.