By Ryan Trom ’19
For the second time in recent history, Indonesia was struck with a devastating tsunami caused by an underwater earthquake. On September 28th, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake under the Indian Ocean sent tsunami waves into the Palu Bay, on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. In 2004, there was a 9.1 magnitude earthquake under the Indian Ocean that triggered tsunami sized waves onto the coast of Indonesia. This ended up being the tenth deadliest natural disaster in history. Indonesia sits between two continental plates in the Pacific/Indian Ocean in an area known as the “Ring of Fire”. This area is known for being very subject to tectonic activity. Because of the severity of both of these earthquakes, Indonesia will once again need to redevelop parts of their country and without finding better ways to structure their buildings, disasters like this could plague the country forever.
When the waves initially went into the Palu Bay, it made the waves more narrow because of the surrounding land and they became much more severe. The severity of the earthquake it “triggered a phenomenon called soil liquefaction, which turned the ground into a churning sea of mud.” One young woman in Indonesia said, “I saw our homes being sucked into the Earth. The Earth was like a blender, blending everything in its way.” As of now, there are around 2,050 people dead with the death toll expected to rise.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo visited Palu and believes with the amount of damage done that it will take at least two years to redevelop the disaster zone. Now imagine fleeing your dorm in a panic to get outside and see that you and all your friends’ homes were being sucked into the Earth with ease. Not only is this a devastating thing but it is something that a majority of people worldwide never have to worry about happening to them or their home. Unfortunately, this was just the beginning for the people of Palu.
Following the earthquake and tsunami, a volcano erupted just miles north of where the tsunami made landfall. This became the third severe tectonic event in Indonesia within the span of less than a week. As of now, the volcano does not pose as a major threat to rescue attempts but seems to be of major concern since it is the third major seismic event in such a short period of time. All of these events have affected more than 2.4 million people and left more than 61,000 people homeless.
The chaos these events have caused have left police officials with very limited options on how to handle the disaster. Rescue officials have been beginning to bury recovered bodies in mass graves. At first, police were taking pictures of all recovered bodies so friends and relatives could identify them, but now, said the head of the local Department of Victim Identification, “They’ve become a public health hazard, and the new instructions are to bury them immediately.” This catastrophe has caused a lot of chaos in Indonesia and as rescue attempts continue, the eventual effect of the volcanic eruption could play a major role.
Beyond all the damage done to the country, thousands of residents are becoming very angry with the way that the country is dealing with these disasters. After the 2004 tsunami, citizens were hoping that the country would learn how to better deal with natural disasters, knowing that their country is located in the Ring of Fire and tsunamis and earthquakes are common. One citizen cried, “This is something that happens all the time in Indonesia. Why aren’t we getting better at handling it?” An Indonesian spokesperson said, “We should not forget that there will be many disasters to come. It needs budget, we need to learn from Japan as they are consistent in preparation.” According to “Marked By Teachers,” they talk about how many countries preparation stems from the economic value of the country. They discussed how richer countries can use more effective technology in their larger buildings to limit the damage done during other natural disasters. In the United States, a lot of this technology has been put into place, especially with the amount of earthquakes that happen along the San Andreas Fault in California. While a large majority of these earthquakes are not felt, they have several hundred each year that are over a 3.0 magnitude, making them felt and possible to cause damage. Because of the technology and design of most buildings in California, these earthquakes do not tend to cause a problem like they would in many other developing or lower socioeconomic countries.
In the months to come, Indonesia will begin to reconstruct a majority of the Sulawesi Island in Indonesia. Due to the location of Indonesia, instances like this are bound to happen in the future so without more funding towards technology in newly built buildings, the country will suffer from natural disasters again.