Cemeteries as Major Disaster Response Protocol
Apparently, some of the people displaced by the devastating floods in Jakarta have found shelter in a cemetery located in the center of the city.
“For several hundred evacuees,” reports The New York Times, “the cemetery offered a refuge, with public toilets and working water pumps for washing. An informal community has emerged there, with women cooking donated food at a communal fire under a big blue tarpaulin.”
Says one evacuee, “We are afraid to sleep in the cemetery. But we have no other place to go. We are sleeping among the dead.”
But “during the day, the cemetery is now a lively place, as displaced people from surrounding neighborhoods come to wash at its pumps and use its outdoor toilets.”
Cemeteries, planned on high ground, sacred spaces normally detached from the rest of the city, becoming critical centers in post-disaster relief and humanitarian aid.
Which reminds us of a Cairene cemetery, pictured above. Known to Westerners as the City of the Dead, it is home to thousands of refugees from Cairo's housing shortage, a “necropolis turned metropolis”, where tombs and mausoleums have been converted to house families, schools, and small business. There is even the occasional wedding parties.
The last four photos are by Ed Kashi, whose amazing though unfortunately downsized photos of the City of the Dead first appeared in the Winter '96 issue of Atlas Magazine, with a brief essay by Julie Winokur.