Research Log | Quake in Yogjakarta

Nunuk Ambarwati, Head of Archive and Media Relation, Cemeti Art Foundation (CAF)Yogyakarta, Indonesia Reports from Yogjakarta

Yogjakarta, Saturday, 27th May 2006 , 05.55 hrs

I was dragged out of the house by my younger brothers and my father. Screaming with panic, confused and tense, we managed to save ourselves from the terrifying tremors of the quake that measured 5.9 on the richter scale that shook Yogjakarta and it's surrounding areas, on Saturday morning, the 27 May 2006.

Electricity and all ports of communications shut down within seconds of the quake, and left us almost completely isolated from information on what was happening. Only one local radio station remained active and willingly became a port exchanging information for almost all of Yogjakarta. Every two hours after the quake, we still felt tremors, although nothing compared to the first. Even as I write this, the tremors still occur and can be felt very strongly in certain areas of Yogjakarta.

What happened as a result? While we were lucky that there were only cracks here and there in my house, my neighbors' homes, to both our left and right, were totally destroyed. But I only really realized how disastrous the impact of the terrifying quake was after I'd gone around the city of Yogja hours later. In less than a minute, the earthquake on Saturday morning had destroyed thousands of buildings and public facilities like schools, government offices, old cultural and heritage buildings, like temples and of course many residential homes. Many people were injured by debris falling from collapsing houses, and there have been more than 5000 casualties. The sight of streets and mosques filled with bodies, hospitals crowded with casualties, from mostly broken bones and bruises, and people who don't know what they will do because they have lost their homes, is overwhelming. The weekend quake was really like an 'attack at dawn', which shocked all of us who live in Yogjakarta, and has left behind a deep trauma. Most choose to sleep outside and to stay awake in case a bigger tremor happens. Even the patients at the hospitals prefer to stay in the outdoor compounds of the hospitals rather than to be moved to the wards.

When all attention was directed to the heightened activity of Mount Merapi in the north of Yogja, the unexpected disaster came from the south, a tectonic earthquake, the aftermath of the collision of two Indo-Australian and Eurasian plates.

 The art community has been severely affected by the quake. Artist, Agus Suwage, and his wife, Tita Rubi, who live in Yogjakarta are raising money for 100 tents to provide temporary shelter to those left homeless. P-10, Plastisque Kinetic Worms, Your MOTHER gallery are among a number of organisations in Singapore joining forces to raise money to build these 100 tents. An exhibition of works donated by artists and galleries will be held from the 9th - 18th June and all proceeds will go towards this cause. Please go to for more details on how you can help.





Thu, 1 Jun 2006

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