Ready for the worst

Malaysian students studying in Padang in West Sumatra are a resilient lot, prepared to handle emergencies like an earthquake or tsunami. 

No more sexy nighties for the girls, no more kain pelikat for the boys! The Malaysian students in Padang now wear only long pants or track bottoms to bed in case they need to dash out and make a run for it if there’s a tsunami. 

Their mobile phones are never switched off, their keys are always ready at the door and their passports and cash are within reach to grab and go. 

Since the April 10 quake off the Mentawai islands which measured 7.2 on the Richter scale, Malaysian students in Padang have made detailed emergency and evacuation plans should the area be hit by a tsunami. 

From left: Nadiah Hamdan,Boi Saidi Razak, S. Sugithaand Erhan Rahim.

They have formed teams, picked the leaders, agreed not to split up to make rescue and evacuation efforts easier, and decided that the car park at the University Andalas Teaching Hospital where most of the Malaysians study would be their immediate meeting point. 

In anticipation that telephone and mobile lines would be knocked out for the first few hours after such a catastrophe, the students have bought five walkie talkies.  

Student representative Boi Saidi Razak said they have a RM9,000 emergency fund to ensure the safe passage of all Malaysian students out of Padang should the need arise.  

Boi Saidi has spoken to the MAS office here on securing a quick MAS flight home, and made back-up plans with the Indonesian Air Force and the Malaysian consul-general in Medan. 

Pointing out that earthquakes often cause a power blackout and render ATMs useless for a few hours, Boi Saidi said the students would probably not be able to get hold of their emergency cash if it was in the bank. Which is why they have put a chunk of it as a deposit with the MAS office in Padang so that they can get air tickets out immediately even if the banks are down. 

There are currently 54 Malaysian students in Padang but the number is expected to rise to 100 with this year’s intake. 

As a contingency plan, Boi Saidi, a final year medical student, has held discussions with officers from the Indonesian Air Force who said they were willing to fly the Malaysians out. 

Third year medical student Nadiah Hamdan said there were over 1,000 aftershocks and tremors within a week after the April 10 quake. 

“It is as if we were sleeping in a rocking boat because Padang was shaking every two minutes and after a while every five minutes. People were crying by the roadside, shops were closed,” she added. “Some students ran out during an exam when there were tremors and they had to re-sit the paper.” 

S. Sugitha, a fourth year medical student, said her room had cracks everywhere, but the 24-year-old is staying put. 

First year medical student Erhan Ramli, however, has no regrets coming to Padang to study. “I have become more organised. I have all my details and passport in one place and carry these even to lectures.” 

Related stories: 

Owning a piece of paradise 

Badly shaken by earthquake 

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