Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Ramlan cuts off his own leg to survive quake

Actress Manohara (left) looks at Ramlan, the victim of Padang earthquake at emergency tent im Yos Sudarso hospital in Padang of West Sumatra (10/11). ( ANTARA/Maril Gafur)

The Red Cross earthquake operation in West Sumatra continues scaling up on the distribution of relief good while at the same time we continue consulting with communities to come uo with a sturdy emergency/transitional shelter until decisions are made by the Government to build permanent houses. Four shelter material design options, based on the use of bamboo, coconut wood or recycled wood, or a combination of these materials are being considered. For each option, with a design lifespan of six months, a full size demonstration unit of 16 sq. metres and one of 24 sq. metres will be erected on 14 October. Speed and ease of construction will be factors when selecting the final design. A different design may be needed if the programme moves into the city of Padang. While we have been working hard the last few days I cannot help thinking frequently of Ramlan, who is recovering in the hospital down the road in a hospital. I have asked one of our team to visit him tomorrow and see how we might be able to assist him, and others who lost limbs and have spinal injuries. We ran a special programmes after the Yogjakarta eathquake for the thousands of people suffering from spinal injuries. So much work to be done ! Here is the story about Ramlan:

Amid falling debris and trembling constructions as well as screams for help of thousands outside, a young man inside a building groaned with pain as the teeth of a saw sliced inch by inch his leg.

While dying of being trapped, Ramlan (18) was forced to saw off his own leg stuck under a piece of six-ton concrete rubble. He risked sawing his own leg to escape the greater peril of a 7.9 magnitude earthquake that devastated Padang city in Sumatra.

Losing his right leg from knee down had never crossed Ramlan`s mind when he left West Java`s Purwakarta a month earlier to eke out a living by working as a construction laborer in West Sumatra.

In his mind, jobs are hard to find nowadays. Working in a construction renovation project in Padang city, provincial capital of West Sumatra, was an inevitable choice for him to make both end meet. But fate tells him a different story. There, a quake `robbed` him of his right leg.

He was still lucky indeed for over 800 were killed by the earthquake. Unofficial estimates put the death toll at thousands as many could not be lifted out of the remains of collapsed buildings.

When the earthquake struck at 5.16 pm on September 30, 2009, Ramlan was working on the sixth floor of a Telkom building which was undergoing a renovation, in Jalan Khatib Sulaeman, Padang city.

Ramlan and his co-workers had no unusual feelings at all at that time. They were busy working in the renovation project. As the sun was slowly approaching the horizon while their tired faces had begun tenderly feeling a puff of evening zephyr, the earth trembled all of a sudden, palm trees gyrated, electric poles danced, buildings rocked and collapsed.

In the first trembler, people on the first floor of the Telkom building panicked and rushed out of the building. Within seconds, another strong tremor rocked the earth that was felt in all parts of the city. Cars in the parking lot swayed back and forth.

Ramlan and friends were in an unlucky storey on the sixth floor. A collapsed piece of concrete rubble almost buried Ramlan alive, but still, the piece, weighing about six tons and measuring 4x4 sq m, squeezed his right leg. He was stuck there, while his friends succeeded in running down the stairs.

"As I felt the second tremor, I tried to pull out but I can`t as my right leg was stuck under the rubble," Ramlan told RCTI television station on his bed in a hospital on Sunday.

What he had in mind was how to escape from the building and to survive the second tremor. But how, his leg was squeezed under the rubble. He looked around where he found a sand scoop and a hoe. The heroic young laborer reached them and decided to cut his leg off with the scoop.

Crying in pain under the rubble alone --as every body outside the building and everywhere in the city was also busy safeguarding him or herself--, Ramlan was trying to slice his leg with the scoop. It was too blunt. It did not work. Fresh blood continued to ooze out of his injured and crushed tiny leg. He took the hoe and chopped it up. He felt he was being stabbed with pain from head to toe. Still, he failed.

After half-an hour in the struggle, he found his cellular phone. "With the hoe I still can`t cut my leg. Then I found my cellular phone, I called my co-workers for help," he said.

His friends came up a moment later to help. They tried to lift the rubble. The heavy concrete slab even could not be shaken, let alone be removed. Amid their confusion, Ramlan asked for a saw and told them to saw his leg. But none of his friends was able to perform the job.

"I have no choice so that I did it myself. I felt some how a regret in my heart to cut my leg, but I have no other choice," he told online portal over the weekend.

While groaning in pain, Ramlan continued to saw his leg. The teeth of the saw sliced it inch by inch until he almost fell unconscious. Fresh blood rolled down on the floor. The ill-fated construction worker was unable to continue. Herman, one of his friends, forced himself to take over the job.

"I was surprised and sad to see him bathe in blood," Herman told He decided to accomplish the job as he could not stand to see Ramlan scream in pain. Ramlan`s request for Herman to cut off his leg forced him to act speedily.

"If we stay longer not to act, I am afraid Ramlan would lose his blood too much which could threaten his life," Herman said. After cutting off his leg, Herman carried poor Ramlan on his back and rushed him to the Selasih Hospital about 500 meters away from the Telkom building.

At the hospital, Ramlan did not immediately received medical treatment because the hospital was also heavily damaged by the earthquake, which also smashed hundred thousands of other buildings, including Ambacang hotel where hundreds of people were buried alive.

In the emergency condition, a doctor of the hospital gave Ramlan a first help. The wound on the tip of his cut-off leg was bandaged to avoid infection. He was admitted to the Dr M Djamil hospital before he was finally sent to the Yos Sudarso hospital for a proper medical treatment.

Now, Ramlan`s condition is gradually improving. But he was still traumatized with the nightmare when he remembered he sawed his own leg. Although he is now permanently invalid, he did not regret the event. He is resigned to his fate.

"What I want now is an artificial leg and to return home to met my mother immediately," he said.

A non-governmental organization in Jakarta, Patriot Nasional (Patron) according to, has promised to bear all medical cost of Ramlan in the hospital and provided him with an artificial leg as well as financing his education if he wants to continue his study.
Thanks to the Jakarta Post for permission to use Andi Abdussalam amazing article.

I just got news from Kathy that Ramlan has been released from hospital and is now back home in Central Java. What a remarkable recovery. I will ask the local chapter of PMI to follow up with hime and when I am back in Jakarta, I will try and visit he and his family. What an example of courgae and will to survive. I must ask him about 'The Third Man factor I have been writing about on this blog.'


Ruahines said...

Kia ora Bob,
These real life traumas put things in perspective for those of us bitching and moaning about ACC levies and the possibility of Maori television hosting a few rugby matches. God bless Ramlan, may he prosper.

Marja said...

It is hard to understand how difficult and painful that must have been. A very brave thing to do .
Waiting for the government to build houses? That decicion can be taken straight away I would think so
Take care and i wish you all the strength Arohanui, Marja

Bob McKerrow - Wayfarer said...

Kia Ora Robb and Marja

Isn't Ramlan an inspiration ? I have stopped complaining about knee pains since hearing his story.

Tks for your encouragment.

Arohanui, Bob

Donald said...

Amazing story Bob. Thanks for sharing. Indeed inspiring and puts our-day-to-day issues here in paradise in sharp perspective!

Can't help but wonder how'd I'd cope in Ramlan's predicament, and I'm not I'd care to find out.

Keep up the good work.



Bob McKerrow - Wayfarer said...

Dear Donald

It's an amazing story that still stuns me when I think about what he did. We had an earthquake south of here an hour ago which shook Jakarta and many parts of Java.

The plates are active.



Anonymous said...


are people that stupid in the world.
A "hero..."

this kid is dumb, the people are done

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