Earthquake and Tsunami in Sulawesi

Recent Impressions

Even after weeks of working and bringing aid to the needy, there is still a lot to do. Thanks to the helicopter, we can reach places, which are not accesible by car. Therefore, we can bring sick and injured people to safety.

October 10th, 2018

Devastation in the mountains

These gifts we brought cannot restore what these people in the mountains have lost, but for the people of Kulawi, it is not insignificant. As the helicopter was about to leave, one community leader placed his hand over his heart and said, “Thank you for coming. I am crying.”


The community of Kulawi, tucked in the mountains south of Palu, did not make international news when the earthquake struck on 28 September. It was not in the path of the tsunami that followed. Houses were not sucked into mud like in Palu. However, homes and buildings did crumble in random fashion. Until some major excavation takes place, the area is left isolated between multiple landslides that have cut off access in or out except by foot or air.


Along with Yayasan MAF Indonesia, we suspected that villages further inland from the coast had also been damaged. Flying with the helicopter south from Palu, we observed landslide after landslide completely blocking the road in numerous places. When the aircraft landed in the Kulawi town center, MAF’s Disaster Response Manager, another co-worker and our pilot, spoke to community leaders who explained that their food supply would last only one week.


Doctors, Food & Meds

Two days after the first visit, two Indonesian doctors, a husband and wife along with their daughter, showed up at our hangar which we are sharing now as an office and as a home with MAF, asking for a flight to Kulawi to assess the medical need and bring a small bit of medicine. A local Palu church also wanted to help by offering food. In partnership with MAF, we provided the flights to bring the doctors one day, and 413 kilos of food and medicine the next day.


These small gifts cannot restore what they have lost, but for the people of Kulawi, it is not insignificant. As the helicopter was about to leave, one community leader placed his hand over his heart and said, “Thank you for coming. I am crying.”


A Village Gone

Less than 10 minutes by motorbike from Kulawi lies the rubble of a small village called Boladangko. Until 28 September, it was home to more than 500 people and 160 houses. Walking down the main street is a surreal scene of wreckage, a pile of concrete and wood here, a roof with no walls attached there. Someone points to a pile of white and green concrete. That was the school, he says.


Another man introduces himself as the leader of this village. “This is my office,” he says, pointing to a place where not a single brick is left attached to the foundation. He pauses and looks down at the ground for a moment, then points to another pile of rubble. “This is my house.”


House after house, a store, a church, community center, and more houses. All destroyed.


Yusak Randa, a resident of Boladangko, recalls the moment of terror. “When everything started shaking, we ran for the door. No one could stand straight. Everyone fell over because the floor was shaking so badly. When we got out of the house, we saw that every single house had collapsed. We could not even stand. We had to crawl. Our whole body was covered with wounds from bricks falling on us. We all ran to the school field but did not know what to do. Everyone was crying, asking for help. The kids were so afraid.”


The community of Boladangko is now displaced. Some have set up tents along the river. Others are building shacks along the edge of Kulawi’s town center using material recovered from the rubble – pieces of wood and sections of a roof. They do not know what they will do in the future. They cannot think that far ahead. Right now, it is just about food in their mouth and a cover for their heads.


(based on a report of Yayasan MAF Indonesia)


sulawesi, earthquake, humanitarian aid
sulawesi, earthquake, aid, humanitarian
sulawesi, earthquake, aid, humanitarian

Devastation - Helicopter aid - medical team

sulawesi, earthquake, helicopter, aid, humanitarian
sulawesi, earthquake, helicopter, aid, humanitarian
sulawesi, earthquake, helicopter, aid, humanitarian

sulawesi, earthquake, aid, humanitarian, doctors
sulawesi, earthquake, aid, humanitarian, doctors
sulawesi, earthquake, aid, humanitarian, doctors

October 6th, 2018

Villages outside of Palu in great need

Two days ago, Matthias flew with the MAF disaster relief team over the city and all along the coastline north of the city into the epicenter of the quake. There was visible evidence of the Tsunami all along the bay and up the coast. The road however seemed usable since it is built on rocky ground. Yesterday, they made a survey flight to the south of Palu towards the mountains. There were many places where the road was completely gone due to mud-slides, and there were large areas where the ground had become totally "liquefied". The disaster relief coordinator said the following: “The main road going out of Palu city to the south is completely gone in one section. The ground liquefied and has destroyed probably a good half mile of the road and there’s no way to get around it. People are isolated and I know there’s a great need.”


Currently we want to help with our helicopter to bring aid to this ~5000 people: Food (rice, salt, oil), water, medical help, etc. On one hand we fly in goods, on the other hand we fly out injured people. The Military has been helping with big helicopters and they fly the “large quantities” to big locations, and we go to the smaller villages and support them with our smaller helicopter. This cooperation seems to work well.

The destruction as well as the need is immense!

October 5th, 2018

Swiss delegation in Palu

Power is back on, at least in parts of the city Palu. This brings hope. Yesterday a Swiss Delegation flew with the Kodiak from MAF. Tomorrow an official Swiss Government plane should visit Palu. We shall see, if we can make use of our helicopter for their inspection. 

pictures of the destruction

October 2nd, 2018

Collaboration & The Vulcano

On the picture you can see our Helicopter, the Long Ranger, and in the back the MAF Kodiak. Behind the MAF Kodiak is the YAN Kodiak (from Ethnos360). This represents how we are collaborating with other organizations to provide aid as efficiently as possible following this devastating earthquake.


The volcano, which is now also spitting ash, erupted quite far away, so the ash should not affect the air-traffic in Palu.


Our license to fly in Palu (Cof A) has been reissued by the Indonesian civil aviation authorities allowing us to fly for this disaster.

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Helimission Helicopter and 2 Kodiak planes from MAF and Ethnos 360

Red Cross Report:

Arial footage shows the extent of the damage in Palu city, Indonesia following the earthquake and subsequent tsunami which occurred on Friday. The Red Cross says 60% of buildings have been destroyed in the city. The death toll has already passed 1,200 and is expected to rise further.

October 1st, 2018

Update on situation in Palu from Julie, Ethnos 360):

Our teammates are all safe. Many have been evacuated from the area, and more are leaving today being flown out by military plane. 

Our aircraft is all in place now to start helping in the evacuation process, as well as disaster relief. 

The situation is only getting worse there on the ground. One co-worker told us they are still having tremors every hour. There is still no electricity, and they are running low on gas, clean water and food. This has led to people getting desperate, and there has been a lot of looting and other crime. So, please pray for the people's safety and, as well, for their physical needs to be met. Most people are still sleeping outside. The sick and injured are lying on the ground out in open-air clinics as the hospitals are either destroyed or unsafe to enter. 

I don't know the most recent number of dead, but last I heard it was 1,300 and rising.

 Thank you so much for all support!





Further news to follow…

Graphics: The Guardian

Following a devastating tsunami and earthquake on the island of Sulawesi, authorities have already reported that over 830 people have been killed. However, it is feared that the death toll will be much higher.


Helimission is in the midst of planning and organizing together with our staff on site in Palu, the MAF disaster response team, and Ethnos360. Communication with the affected area is limited because neither electricity or internet seems to be working. We have however heard that our pilots and their families on site in Palu are safe and well.

Following the earthquake with a magnitude of 7.4, our staff took the helicopter out of the hangar for safety reasons because the building was damaged. We are waiting for the airport authorities to grant us the necessary papers so that we can fly bringing supplies and saving lives.


Further news to follow…


If you make a donation for this cause, the put the note: SULAWESI RELIEF on the donation.