BEKASI, Indonesia -- The motorcycle riders weave through the jammed vehicles, honking their horns as they flank ambulances trying to find their way through the traffic-choked streets of Indonesia's capital region.
The two-wheeled volunteers provide a key service in the sprawling metropolis, one in more need than ever as ambulances struggle to serve all those in need because of a surge in coronavirus infections and deaths.
The volunteers usually get a call from ambulance drivers asking them to stand by in case an escort is needed. If it is, up to four riders will head out to guide the ambulance through the congested roads and other obstacles of the Jakarta area.
“Not everyone on the road can accept it. Sometimes they get mad. Sometimes they just let us pass. But mostly the main problem is the traffic. So we have to open the ambulance path so the patients can survive,” said volunteer Rofiq Nur Amrullah.
For Amrullah, who has been serving as a motorcycle escort since 2018, volunteering was spurred by personal tragedy. Years ago, Amrullah’s aunt died in an ambulance stuck in a traffic jam while on the way to a hospital, even though she lived close by.
“There were not many bikers for the ambulance escort service that time,” Amrullah said.
The escorts are busier than ever because of the deadly virus surge that has pushed many hospitals over capacity and caused shortages of oxygen.
And because of the surge, many volunteers are finding they're also being asked to escort hearses making their way to graveyards.
“I escorted not only the patients to the hospital but also the dead body to the burial place,” said Hendi, a volunteer who only uses one name. “Wherever the destination, I will open the access.”