Priest tells of pain
By ADRIAN MILLER
AS THOUSANDS of people on the Indonesian island of Java come to grips with the devastating impact of last weekend's earthquake, a former Yamba Surf Life Saving Club member is in the thick of the action.
Missionary priest John O'Doherty, who lived in Grafton and was involved with the surf club in the 1950s, now lives in Yogyakarta ? the area most affected by the quake.
In an email to friends, Father O'Doherty said it had been a tumultuous time for the island's inhabitants.
"You know the saying, caught between the devil and the deep blue sea," he wrote.
"Well, that's what's going on here. Everyone has been waiting for (volcano) Merapi to blow, then Saturday the big earthquake."
The earthquake measured 6.3 on the Richter scale, with latest reports indicating the eruption has claimed nearly 6000 lives and displaced close to 700,000 people.
Father O'Doherty said when the rumblings first started last Saturday, he was not sure what to make of them.
"I thought the rumbling and shaking of the bed was coming from Merapi, but seems it started with an underwater disturbance out at sea," he wrote.
"I was just in the process of waking up when there was this noise and everything started shaking. I stayed put and waited until it finished before getting out of bed."
Father O'Doherty said it was not long before panic set in, with many people believing another tsunami was on the way. The seminary was without power for a few hours, but it escaped damage.
He was touched by the human tragedy.
"The sister and brother-in-law of one of our oblates were killed when their house collapsed," he wrote.
"They lay over their young child, just five years old, and she was saved.
"The parents, elderly, were OK, but they were saying, 'why wasn't it us, we are already old'. The young couple were only in their 30s. But that is just one of many sad stories," he said.