Mon, 27 Aug 2001

Fire victims submit to fate

By Emannuele Annastashya

JAKARTA (JP): For thousands of residents of West Pademangan subdistrict in North Jakarta, their dreams turned into nightmares on Friday night as fire engulfed their homes and all their possessions.

They lack the financial resources to secure new accommodation.

Most of them were asleep when the fire, which in the end consumed 240 houses in the densely populated area, started late on Friday. Soon thereafter, they were forced to flee for their lives.

"As soon as my son screamed there was a fire, I promptly gathered my other children together and we fled from the house. The fire was spreading really quickly," Mutiem told The Jakarta Post.

"It didn't occur to me to take my valuables ... we were in such a panic," she added as she watched her husband Dirjomuryatno going through the rubble of their former home.

"There's not even a single dinner plate left. We've nothing left," Dirjomuryanto said to his wife in dismay.

Three people died in the blaze, 16 were injured and almost 2,000 were left homeless.

Mutiem, Dirjomuryanto and their three children are now housed in tents erected by city's social welfare office at a sports ground, which they share with other victims.

"We don't know what to do next, we don't have any money at all to rebuild our house," Mutiem said.

Her husband, who used to be an ojek (motorcycle taxi) driver, was equally perplexed as his motorbike was also destroyed in the fire.

"At the moment I don't have a clue how to rebuild our lives ... we just have to accept it as fate," he said.

Not far from where Mutiem and her husband were standing, a teenager was pointing out her family home, now just a pile of rubble, to visiting friends.

"I'm so sad that I no longer have a house. My parents told me that we are going to stay at a relative's house," Penny Sulistyani, 14, told the Post.

Another group of teenagers from public school SMU 40 came armed with exercise books and a school uniform which they intended to donate to their schoolmate who's house was burned down.

Upon handing over the books and the uniform to their friend Teguh, one of the students, Nurhayati, broke out in tears.

"He's a dear friend of ours. I can't believe this is happening to him," Nurhayati, who is Teguh's girlfriend, said.

Meanwhile, Teguh calmly received his friends' donations and thanked them for their kindness.

"God willing, I'll be back at school tomorrow," he said.

At the Pademangan sports center, there are four tents to shelter around 2,000 people, and one makeshift kitchen set up by the Indonesian Red Cross.

The fire victims shared two temporary latrines, which obviously lacked running water as a number of people were seen going back and forth with buckets to ensure a water supply.


In the makeshift kitchen, which was swarming with flies, a number of women were busy cooking food which would later be wrapped in paper and distributed to the victims.

In one of the packed tents, Kasinem, a mother of eight, was breast feeding her youngest daughter while chatting with other women.

"At night, it's difficult to sleep because the tent is so crowded and hot," she said, adding that she and her husband planned to build a hut where their house used to be as they also lacked the financial resources to rebuild their home.

As for their future, Kasinem said they had not yet come up with a concrete plan as it was difficult to do so under the circumstance.

"Thank God our children were unharmed. I'm grateful for that alone. As for the future ... I don't know," she said submissively.

The same thought was expressed by Sutarni and her mother Aminah, who has been living in the area for 40 years.

Returning to their home village in East Java is not an option as they no longer have anything there.

"All is lost. We don't have any money, we don't have anything now. I'm confused," Sutarni said as she dragged on her cigarette.

"All we can do is to accept this. Hopefully God will help us somehow," her mother Aminah added.

Donations in the form of clothes, food or other essentials may be handed over directly at the site or to Radio Elshinta, Menara Indosiar complex, Jl. Joglo Raya 70, West Jakarta (tel. 5869005).