Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland fundraiser launches Indonesian earthquake appeal

‘I was in tears and I knew I had to do something’

By Ivan Little

A big-hearted charity fundraiser from Northern Ireland has launched an urgent appeal to help victims of the devastating earthquake on the Indonesian island of Lombok.

Portrush man Willie Gregg has already sent a £1,500 donation to a children's charity on the ravaged island from a fund he set up to help young people orphaned in Thailand by the 2004 tsunami.

"The footage on the TV news from Lombok had the same impact on me that the tsunami did 14 years ago," he said.

"I was in tears. And I knew I just had to do something."

Sunday's powerful 6.9 magnitude quake is now known to have killed over 130 people and left at least 20,000 people homeless.

A second tremor hit the island and nearby Bali on Monday and thousands of tourists have been evacuated from the region.

Relief agencies have said the priority is to provide shelter for residents, many of whom are said to be too terrified to return to their houses and villages.

Mr Gregg said he made contact with a Dutchman called Chaim Fetter - the chairman and founder of a the Peduli Anak Foundation, which looks after street children on Lombok.

He told the Portrush bar manager that the earthquake had destroyed a series of shelters which he had built up over 14 years for abused, exploited and neglected children - only for it to be flattened in 10 seconds.

Mr Fetter, whose BBC World Service interview in front of the shattered shelters was seen by millions of TV viewers, said it was lucky that none of the 90 children in his care were killed or injured because they were all in a praying room, in an open space, when the quake struck.

He added: "We have nothing now. It's terrible that these children are homeless again. They are totally traumatised."

Mr Gregg said: "Chaim told me he's setting up a soup kitchen and there's an urgent need not only for water but also for pots, pans, cooking utensils, cups, plates and cutlery.

"So I went to the bank and got money sent out to Lombok as fast as possible. It really does seem to be a matter of life and death.

"Rather than wait for the money to come in on the appeal, the money that I dispatched is from Willie's Orphan Fund and I'm now appealing for people who have been extremely generous in assisting me to help the Thai orphans will rally around again."

Sunday's quake came a week after another quake on Lombok killed 16 people.

Aid is now reaching isolated areas of the island while rescuers continued efforts to find the dead. Volunteers and rescue personnel were erecting more temporary shelters while food and medical supplies were being distributed from vehicles.

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