Tsunami and Earthquake to Hit Indonesian Coast

October 2018 

     A 7.5 magnitude earthquake hit the coast of Sulawesi, Indonesia on September 28, 2018. This tremor triggered a tsunami which ravaged the city of Palu, hitting it with 20 ft waves. NPR reported that the combined devastation of these two phenomenons killed “at least 1,200 people, according to local media citing government officials”.

The island of Indonesia is located on the Ring of Fire in the Pacific Ocean, where the tectonic plates meet. As a result, Indonesia is especially susceptible to earthquakes and resulting disasters.

    While earthquakes are quite common in Indonesia, they still cause a lot of harm and destruction. After the 2004 tsunami, with a death toll of approximately 230,000 across 14 Pacific countries, a warning system was implemented to warn civilians of approaching tsunamis.

    However, it appears that this system was underdeveloped. The New York Times noted that “Indonesia currently uses only seismographs, global positioning system devices and tide gauges to detect tsunamis, which are of limited effectiveness.”

    As an earthquake preceded the tsunami, the warning systems that were in place were ineffective. “Many people in Palu did not receive alerts because of power cuts caused by the tremor,” the BBC reported. “There were also no sirens located along the coast.”

    It seems that the aftermath of the natural disaster is more devastating than the tsunami itself. Landslides, broken buildings, and blocked off roads prevent much needed aid from reaching the citizens of Palu. With devastation surrounding them, the public clamors for supplies, looting stores and waiting by the now-wrecked port.

    Volunteers from Oxfam and World Vision, both relief organizations, are working to get aid flowing into Palu, but note the many obstacles in their way. The Indonesian government has also assisted in the search and rescue of survivors by sending helicopters into Palu.

    NPR reports that “a prolonged delay” in the burial of the many dead “could create a new health crisis.” As a result, local officials are working quickly to orchestrate mass burials, and are clearing roadways to allow aid to continuously flow through to those who are in need of it.