When Husein’s body arrived to be buried in the ground, his grieving relatives collapsed, some in wails so loud it echoed through the rolling hills of Cianjur in West Java.
The 48-year-old construction worker and father of four, who shares the same name as many Indonesians, was building a house with three others when a strong earthquake shook the city to its foundations on Monday.
It has resulted in buildings collapsing on residents, landslides burying locals and forcing families to contend with the trauma of losing their loved ones. One of Husein’s employees also died.
“This is a disaster,” Husein’s 30-year-old niece, Yunisa Yuliani, said at his funeral in Gasol village near Cianjur, one of the worst-hit villages by the quake, which killed 268 people.
“It’s so hard to even look at your kids, they’re so young. They keep asking about their father. How do I explain it to them?”
As he stared at his body, which had been carried five minutes’ walk from the site, his sister, who lived next door, was heartbroken.
Several of his nieces hugged each other tightly. A whiny man was so heartbroken that he had to be stopped by two of his friends.
“I just lost a brother ten days ago. He died of appendicitis and now I’ve lost another brother,” said Husein’s 43-year-old sister Siti Rohmah.
– ‘Uncle! Uncle!’ –
Husein leaves behind a three-year-old daughter who doesn’t quite understand that she has lost her father.
His eldest son, in his 20s, watched silently as his grave was dug while his seven-year-old son wept in the arms of a relative and neighbors began a cleansing ritual for his body.
His wife was unable to attend the funeral as she worked in Saudi Arabia.
It was a scene repeated throughout the Cianjur area as families took their loved ones from the morgues to be buried in hastily arranged ceremonies according to their Islamic beliefs.
“I still hoped he was the last person missing. I pray that God will accept his good deeds and give him an easy journey,” Rohmah said.
His body was laid out on a tarpaulin on a dirt road, wrapped in white cloth and covered with a traditional orange Indonesian batik scarf. A dozen men stood and prayed for him.
As Husein was lowered into a makeshift grave, men chanted a prayer while others solemnly looked down.
His body was covered with a pile of bamboo and large banana leaves before bystanders covered the grave with earth.
Neighbors then began reciting Islamic verses for the deceased.
“I just hope my uncle died peacefully,” Yuliani said.
Before Husein’s body was collected for burial, it was placed in a red and white tent where it could be cleaned and where the family could get one last look at his face.
The wailing of his family broke an eerie silence that had fallen over the city after the quake.
“Uncle! Uncle!” was all that could be heard from the closed marquee.