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Home Global Activities Asia Tzu Chi Volunteers Comfort Victims of Freak Storm

Tzu Chi Volunteers Comfort Victims of Freak Storm

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When a freak storm damaged many houses in Samariang, Tzu Chi volunteers visited the disaster area seven times to assess, comfort, carry out relief distribution, and promote loving-kindness and environmental protection. Many hearts were inspired.

On the afternoon of June 16, 2009, a freak storm hit Samariang, a new township consisting of 2,500 low-cost linked houses located about 45 minutes' drive from Kuching. The victims were unprepared for the strong wind, which some described as a hurricane, and the heavy downpour that followed. This terrifying storm damaged more than 100 houses.

When news of the disaster was published in the local newspaper the following day, Tzu Chi volunteers in Kuching immediately formed a relief team and headed for the disaster area. In six days, a total of 110 volunteers made seven visits to the disaster area to assess the damages, provide comfort and relief distribution to the victims, as well as, promote loving-kindness and environmental protection. Volunteers worked from dawn till dusk; and the relief provided by Tzu Chi benefited 94 households.

Chaos everywhere
When volunteers visited the township on June 17 and 18, they saw giant billboards destroyed, trees uprooted, zinc sheets and furniture scattered all over. Some residents resorted to using canvas as temporary roofing.

An old lady related how the strong wind blew off the zinc roofing of her house, leaving everything inside soaked and damaged by rainwater. Her car's windscreen was also destroyed when hit by a piece of flying zinc from the opposite house and her neighbour's concrete gate post broke into three pieces.

Another victim, Salfarina, recalled the scary incident, "When I felt the approaching of the wind, it had torn up the roof of our car porch in that instant. I quickly carried my child and rushed to the kitchen where I found the roof blown off as well. I panicked and did not know where to go next! I dare not go out of the house, so I cried and cried... It was so scary!"

Norni, another victim, said, "I am 55 years old, and I have never experienced such a destructive wind. It seemed to be controlled by supernatural power, and was selective in the houses it wants to attack."
An old lady fell sick from the trauma resulting from the disaster. When Tzu Chi volunteers visited her, she could not speak but started crying. Volunteers consoled her and said it was a blessing that everyone was safe. We should thank nature for sparing us, and we must always be vigilant. With the spirit of mutual love, all difficulties can and will be overcome.

Another victim, Mr Fang Yong Sheng, told volunteers, "I only have leakage in one room. You should visit my neighbour, his entire roof is gone! So pitiful! They would need help."

He continued, "We felt lonely in the aftermath, but could only wait for relief. Then came Tzu Chi volunteers who comforted and encouraged us. Now, we don't feel lonely and are not so frightened."

It was discovered that the outcome of the disaster was all the more serious because the roofs were not sturdily built.

Spreading the seeds of love while giving out relief
On June 19, 2009, a relief distribution was carried out. Forty-five volunteers took the opportunity to share the origin and story of Tzu Chi with about a hundred recipients. Many were touched by the spirit of the Bamboo Bank Era, and were happy to donate to help others.

When the song of "One Family" was played, volunteers gave a sign language performance expressing the family love that transcends religion and race. Many were moved to tears after they realized Tzu Chi volunteers had actually brought them Master Cheng Yen's blessing and the love of global Tzu Chi volunteers.

One of the recipients, Hassan, said, "I am happy that Tzu Chi volunteers have come to our help when we are having difficulties."
Salfarina thanked Tzu Chi for coming to her aid in such a short time. "In times like this, any form of assistance from anyone is most welcome. I do not know how to repay your kindness and your words of consolation which means so much to me."

Although the sky was getting dark, the volunteers continued to hand out cash relief to the victims with both hands and a deep bow under the street light. They also took the opportunity to advocate environmental protection during the distribution, and promised to return on Tzu Chi's Community Environmental Day, which was on June 21, to carry out recycling activities with the residents.

Environmental Campaign for Samariang
On June 21, Tzu Chi volunteers went back to Samariang, as promised.
Despite the hot weather, everyone worked happily under the guidance of 12 volunteers. Many local residents brought their recyclable items from their homes and also helped in collecting and arranging the scattered zinc sheets into a pile.

Rodah had been waiting for the volunteers' arrival since early morning. She said, "I am glad that the things we donate can help to protect the environment, as well as, help other needy people." Although this was Rodah's first recycling activity, she was very efficient in sorting out aluminium and metal cans and bundling the newspaper. She added, "We are lucky to receive your help, and I am willing to help other people in need as much as I can." It was so heartwarming to see those being helped, helping others.
Tzu Chi's long term care-recipient, Zhang Min Xing, who is staying in this area, participated in the activity. He said, "I am glad for the opportunity to serve others. I hope such activities will continue because our environment will be better and we are protecting Earth. Most importantly, it brings unity and peace to everyone."

Fifteen residents left their contact numbers and have indicated their desire to become environmental volunteers for their community.

On June 22, Tzu Chi carried out a second distribution for another 37 families. When some victims wanted to make a donation, volunteers quickly picked up a PET bottle and turned it into a 'Bamboo Bank' for the purpose.

The merciless wind might have destroyed many homes but it could not destroy the seeds of love.
The spirit of selfless great love shone far and bright at the end of the emergency relief activities. It is our hope that love and care remain steadfast ans strong among the residents.

Translated by Hew Kwee Heong
 
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