Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Taking back the streets

This weekend we went up to Petamburan, a neighborhood just north of us, to check out the cleanup effort (Chad was doing a story for VOA).

The army must have told everybody to put the garbage in the street, because there was a line of trash piles right down the middle. The smell of garbage mixed with the smell of the mud made for a pretty aromatic setting. They brought in a front-loader, and soldiers, residents and volunteers threw all the garbage into it, to be dumped into a larger truck and hauled away.

The soldiers had stylish hip waders, but the residents got pretty dirty. Of course, if they've been living here for the past few days they've had to walk through the mud anyway. Now at least there are cleaning stations where people can rinse off.

After picking up the garbage and several bags of mud, they used a fire truck to spray the streets with water. When they were done, it was pretty clean.

Meanwhile, the gears of the daily relief effort were grinding away. Women distributed box lunches, which are generally paid for with a mix of government funding and donations. People are moving back into their houses, but they're not in a position to cook yet, so the food deliveries continue.


Chad's dad said...

As far as the squid heads - I'm good. Read Chad's story and your blog - it all sounds so much better than New Orleans despite the hardship. Government and people seem so much better able to deal.

kopisusu2 said...

I think the national and city governments didn't respond much better here than they did in the US. Government at the neighborhood level seemed to do a little better.

I think there are some key differences in the population, too. First, unfortunately, people here are more used to disasters. There were severe floods five years ago, and poor areas near the rivers flood every year. Second, communities are pretty tight and people help each other out. Mosques play a big role and seem to be most people's automatic refuge in times of crisis. Third, there's a huge army of people who make a living on the street, and they were quick to build rafts and bring in carts to move people and goods around. More people work with their hands, and there's more wood, scrap metal and random stuff lying around.

Still, there are a lot of people who lost everything in the flood, and I don't think they'll be getting as much help as people did in the US. Of course the US is much wealthier and should set a global standard for responding to something like this, and it hasn't.