A tsunami caused many deaths when it hit a small city on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi on September 28, 2018, after a major earthquake off-shore. This powerful earthquake that rocked the Indonesian island of Sulawesi and triggered a tsunami has killed over 1550 people till date. This horrific incident began when the first in a series of tremors were felt at 3 p.m.
The houses, shops, and restaurants that used to line the waterfront in the city of Palu are now just a pile of debris because of the tsunami, also leading to collapsing buildings and cutting off of the power. Earlier, Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla said, “The death toll could rise into the thousands”, which proved to be true later on.
The city was struck by an earthquake of magnitude 7.5, which caused a horrifying damage. The tsunami waves reportedly reached as high as 6 meters, and as it approached land, it was traveling up to 250 mph. In Palu, 80 km from the epicenter, it razed buildings and cracked roads. And this damage did not stop at Palu but also extended to Donggala, a town which was closest to the epicenter of the earthquake i.e., only 27 kilometers away, and was struck by the tsunami too.
Anthonio Gunawan Agung, an air traffic controller died from jumping off a tower roof as the tower roof was collapsing while waving out the last flight from Palu airport, was one of the first casualties of the disaster.
Initially, National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesperson Sutopo Purwo Nugroho stated, “The earthquake and tsunami caused several casualties.” He further added, “The disaster caused a power outage that cut communications in Donggala and surrounding areas. Nearly, 62,000 people have been displaced from their home”, as quoted in the Hindustan Times.
After this tragic incident, Dwikorita Karnawati, who heads Indonesia’s meteorology and geophysics agency, BMKG, told Reuters, “The situation is chaotic. People are running on the streets and buildings have collapsed. There is a ship washed ashore”. BMKG had earlier issued a tsunami warning but lifted it within an hour. The Red Cross said in a statement that the situation was “extremely worrying”.
WHAT ADDED TO THE DEATHS IN THE INDONESIAN TSUNAMI?
It is said that an early warning system could have prevented some deaths in the Indonesian tsunami. The high-tech system of sea-floor, data-laden sound waves and fiber-optic cable was meant to replace a system set up after the tragedy of 2004. But inter-agency wrangling and delays in getting 1 billion rupiahs to complete the project mean that the system hasn’t moved beyond a prototype developed with $ 3 million from the US National Science Foundation.
Indonesia’s meteorological agency has also been criticized for its response but its officials said that the waves struck while the warning was in place.
CRYING OUT FOR HELP
After a local hospital was damaged, medical staff opted to treat dozens of wounded residents just outside the building, Sutopo said, as mentioned at CNN World. Social worker Lian Gogali tweeted from the area that several villages on the west coast of Sulawesi were in desperate need of food, medicine, and shelter, and that road access was limited. To this, state logistics agency Chief Budi Waseso said it was preparing to send hundreds of tonnes of government rice stocks to Central Sulawesi areas affected by the disaster.
People suffered from a lack of food and supplies and also became more desperate. Local television said around 3,000 residents had flocked to the Palu airport trying to get out. Footage showed some people screaming in anger because they were not able to board departing military aircraft.
Sutopo said that the Indonesian President Widodo authorized the acceptance of international help. After the appeal for international help, more than 25 countries have offered assistance. The UK Government has pledged to match the first £ 2 million public donations to the Disaster Emergency Committee’s earthquake appeal, taking the government aid up to £ 5 million.
NOT FOR THE FIRST TIME…
More than 600,000 people live in Palu and Donggala. Mamuju city was also ravaged, but little information was available due to damaged roads and disrupted telecommunications. It is the largest natural disaster to hit Indonesia, which is frequently struck by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis because of its location on the “Ring of Fire”, an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin. A mosque was heavily damaged by the earthquake in Palu and a shopping mall was reduced to a crumpled hulk.
But it’s not for the first time, in December 2004, a massive magnitude of 9.1 earthquake off Sumatra Island in western Indonesia triggered a tsunami that killed 230,000 people. Last month, a powerful earthquake on the island of Lombok killed 505 people.
THE SITUATION NOW…
For more than 70,000 homeless survivors, and for the many who lost their loved ones, the more urgent and daunting task of deciding for them is what to do next. Survivors are desperate to find their missing relatives and, for this purpose, a Facebook page for information on Palu city has become a pop-up ledger for missing persons, in the hope that someone will find them.
The disaster has pushed services in the affected cities to a breaking point. The twin disasters have caused an estimated $ 700 million in damage and taken over 1550 lives. Now, electricity has been restored, some shops and banks have reopened, and aid and fuel are arriving. Authorities have also dug a mass grave on the outskirts of Palu.
Jusuf Kalla said, “It would take at least two years to redevelop and reconstruct the disaster zone”, as stated in the ABC News. Engineers and scientists also work to guarantee that the new cities will be better able to withstand the region’s frequent earthquakes.