DAYAH TIMU, Indonesia: On her wedding day Yusra Fitriani wept as she laid a ceremonial rose-printed cloth over her bridal bed, the happiest day of her life turned to tragedy in a flash.
Instead of saying her wedding vows the young bride was grieving, her groom-to-be and seven members of his family crushed to death as they slept after a violent earthquake struck Aceh in Indonesia’s west.
Her groom, Suharnas, was among the 100 killed when the shallow 6.5-magnitude quake ripped through the province at dawn on Wednesday.
The quake felled homes and toppled mosques as many in the predominantly Muslim region were preparing to pray.
Those who pulled themselves from the rubble rushed to help their neighbors by hand, or limped to local hospitals that were quickly overwhelmed and appealing for aid.
Suharnas, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, sold watches at the marketplace beneath his home in Meureudu.
The small town was one of the hardest hit, with rescue crews confronted by scenes of utter destruction when they rushed to help those trapped.
When news reached Fitriani’s father Muhammad Yunus that the Meureudu market had been destroyed, he raced to check on his future son-in-law, fearing the worst.
“As I approached the market, my heart was beating very fast,” he told Agence France-Presse. “It turned out his home had collapsed.”
Rescuers pulled seven members of his family from the rubble. All had traveled to Dayah Timu village for the wedding.
It wasn’t until late afternoon that Suharnas’ body was found.
The next day guests began arriving, some bearing gifts for the happy couple, unaware of the tragedy.
A cow had been purchased for the wedding feast, and handmade posters beamed “seeking your blessings” from the walls.
“Everything was set, the bridal table and tents with a capacity of 1,000 guests,” said Yunus.
Instead, guests were confronted by a grieving bride too distraught to talk and a family preparing for a funeral.
“Stay strong my child, this is a test from God,” her mother Rajiati said, comforting her daughter in a room decorated for the wedding.