Rori and Rheyza: Stories from Indonesia

The following account was shared with Islamic Relief staff. The individuals named here are beneficiaries of Islamic Relief disaster response.

This is Rori Oryza Elok.  She is married and has a baby girl of just six months old, little Reysi.  She lived in the Perumnas Balaroa housing complex in Palu.  When the earthquake hit, the whole area moved and buildings started to shake.  She ran outside as did her husband with their baby.

All of a sudden, the ground opened up and a huge crack appeared.  Rori fell into the crack and before she could move, a car fell on top of her.  She was stuck and couldn’t move. In excruciating pain, she called out for help.  What she didn’t realize was that the liquefaction had taken place and the ground had started to swallow up the homes in her neighborhood.  

It was many hours later when her husband was able to gather support from people to come and dig Rori out from underneath a huge car that fell into the crack in the ground, trapping her and completely shattered her leg.  Because they had no access to heavy machinery to lift the car out, they resorted to digging the mud from underneath Rori to create space to then pull her out. She was trapped under the car picture here.

Once the dust had settled, Rori and her husband looked out at what was once a housing complex comprised of 500 homes, all literally swallowed up by the ground.  Although many people tried to get out, because it all happened so quickly, many people, probably hundreds of people were buried alive with their homes.

As Rori tried to escape, she was separated from her mother.  A week since the earthquake, her mother’s body still hasn’t been found.  But she isn’t the only thats missing; Rori’s grandmother is also still missing, as well as her brother-in-law, two cousins, and an aunt.  

Rori’s younger brother Rheyza was over 2,000 kilometers away at the time of the earthquake. He is a lecturer in Java and as soon as he heard about the earthquake he tried to catch the first flight to Palu.  Of course the airport was shut down and no flights were going to Palu, so he took the first flight he could find to the Sulawi Island.  

He then made the rest of the journey to Palu by Road.  Due to landslides, the roads being destroyed, and collapsed bridges, he kept having to turn back and find an alternative route.  He tells us of his determination to get back home to find his mother’s body and carry out her funeral. He explained how he was told that they won’t be able to find her, but kept saying to himself: I will get there and I will find her.  

Eventually, after a 30-hour road trip, he arrived in Palu to see the remains of what was once his home.  What he saw when he arrived completely broke his spirit. He broke down and accepted defeat and knew that he would never find his mother, as the house they once lived in had split into two, with remains of each half 50 meters apart.  His mother was buried somewhere in between the two.

If that wasn’t enough, Rheyza soon discovered that his brother-in-law who also lived in the same housing complex was missing along with one his children, mother, and grandmother.  They had all gathered at their grandmother’s house that day.

Rheyza, Rori, and her family, as well as Rori’s 3-year-old niece, are now taking refuge in a house further up in Palu (away from the coast), in a house that is still standing.  The house is hosting 20 people now with several families who lost their homes in the earthquake living there. None of the families have anything except the clothes they were wearing when they escaped their crumbling homes.  

As Islamic Relief staff listened to this account being told on phone, the line went silent.  After asking the other party if they were still there, the reply was, “Yes, yes I’m here.  There was another aftershock. Sorry.” A week after the initial earthquake, and Indonesia was still feeling aftershocks.

These are the survivors of the horrific earthquake and tsunami.  Rori’s niece is so traumatized from the earthquake and from losing her family to the collapsed houses that she is too scared to go into any house.  She stays outside and even sleeps outdoors. Who can blame her? Everyone and everything she knew disappeared into the ground, and she can still feel aftershocks.

Our focus now is on survivors.  We must do what we can to ensure that they receive the basic essentials to survive this extremely difficult time.

Article written by:

Chancey is the Editor-in-Chief for ReliefLab and a Content Creator at Islamic Relief USA. We would love to feature your voice on the blog – send us a message at