Indonesia seeks to improve warning system as it marks 15 years since tsunami

UNTV News   •   December 26, 2019   •   228

Tsunami survivors pray for their relatives at the Siron Mass Grave in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, 26 December 2019. EFE/EPA/HOTLI SIMANJUNTAK

Jakarta/Banda Aceh – Indonesia on Thursday commemorated the 15th anniversary of the deadly tsunami that killed around 227,000 people in 14 countries surrounding the Indian Ocean, amid efforts to improve its diminished early warning system.

Groups of Indonesians went to pray in front of mass graves in northern Sumatra’s Aceh province, the Ground Zero of the tragedy, where thousands of victims have been buried.

Almost all the Indonesian casualties due to the tsunami — caused by a magnitude-9.3 earthquake — were registered in Aceh.

Life has gone back to normal in this tropical province, where many survivors have rebuilt their homes in the same place the originals were swept away by waves of up to 30 meters (98 feet) high.

Following the disaster, countries around the Indian Ocean — such as Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, Yemen, and Tanzania — have improved their response capabilities, but the system’s maintenance has been poor in the Indonesian archipelago.

In 2008, Indonesia launched an expensive alert system with 22 buoys, but they stopped working four years later due to vandalism and poor maintenance.

Although Indonesia has seismic sensors in place to detect earthquakes and tsunamis, they are less efficient than the buoys.

The shortcomings of the system came to light in September last year, when an earthquake and subsequent tsunami on the island of Sulawesi claimed the lives of 4,300 people.

Consequently, the Agency for Assessment and Application of Technology began installing the first four buoys of a new network that will have 12 devices operational by 2021.

The authorities will also install two underwater fiber-optic cables for real-time transmission of sensor measurements.

Each buoy costs more than 5 billion Indonesian rupees (around $355,000), including maintenance, while the planned 1,000 kilometers (around 620 miles) of fiber-optic cables could cost more than 1 trillion rupees (some $71 million).

“Why more buoys now? It’s a lot of money for nothing,” Indonesian Institute of Science geophysicist Danny Hilman Natawidjaja told EFE, saying that there are cheaper alternatives such as IDSL Sea Level Measurement Devices developed by the European Commission’s Joint Research Center.

In addition, some Aceh residents continue to feel insecure in the face of a shortage of awareness programs and drills conducted by authorities in what is one of the most prone countries to earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions on Earth.

“The communities, especially those in urban areas, should have received training in dealing with disasters in the overall disaster mitigation contest (programs), not only the people on the coast,” Fitri, a resident of provincial capital Banda Aceh, told EFE.

She added that most of the time the mock drills and training for natural disaster response have been conducted only in schools and not included the rest of the community.

Nazli Ismail, geophysics professor at Syiah Kuala University in Banda Aceh, criticized a lack of specific regulations in government evacuation plans and poor preparedness in protecting people against the risk of any future tsunami.

The memory of the devastating waves that swept through entire villages remains alive in Indonesia, where one can still visit ships that were dragged up to 4 kilometers inland and have now been converted into museums.

In Banda Aceh, more than 50 people managed to survive on Dec. 26, 2004 by climbing onto one of these boats that was swept in by the water and lodged on top of a house.

A museum and some remnants of preserved ruins also serve to recall the tsunami in the province, which for decades suffered a separatist conflict that was resolved after the tragedy.

After Indonesia, the countries with the most number of victims were Sri Lanka, with more than 35,000 dead, India (16,000), Thailand (8,000), Myanmar (400-600), Somalia (289), the Maldives (108), and Malaysia (75), among others. EFE-EPA

Floods in Indonesia capital paralyse parts of city, cut power

UNTV News   •   February 25, 2020

 Flooding caused by torrential rain paralyzed large parts of Indonesia’s capital on Tuesday (February 25), as major streets were inundated with murky, brown flood water and power supplies cut in certain parts of the city.

In a residential area in East Jakarta, residents were evacuated on a rubber dinghy.

Flooding was particularly severe in the Bekasi area west of the capital, though big swathes of the low-lying city were also badly affected.

Indonesia’s weather agency linked the rains to tropical cyclones in Australia and in the Indian ocean that had caused bad weather across the islands of Java, Bali and Nusa Tenggara. The agency also warned of high waves in the seas south of Java.

Jakarta is prone to flooding and at the start of the year, the city suffered some of the heaviest rains since records began, causing floods that killed more than 60 people and displaced around 175,000 people. (Reuters Connect)

(Production: Tommy Ardiansyah, Tabita Diela, Angie Teo)

Face mask prices skyrocket in Indonesia as fears over coronavirus mount

UNTV News   •   February 13, 2020

Prices of face masks spiked nearly 10 times in Indonesia triggered by fears over the spread of the deadly coronavirus, as a consumer group head urged the authorities to step in to regulate the growing price.

A seller Bambang Darmadi in Jakarta’s Pramuka market that sells medical equipment told Reuters a box of 50-piece mask is now being sold for around 20 dollars, compared to approximately two dollars before the outbreak. He said the prices increase daily by nearly a dollar.

Over 1,300 people had died from the flu-like virus on Wednesday (February 13) and more than 60,000 people have been infected.

Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country, has so far not recorded any cases.

But locals have been hoarding masks on worries that prices will increase should there be an outbreak in the country of 260 million people.

Locals said they could not find new masks in many places and had to wear their old ones over and over.

The price-gouging selling is not due to scarcity but due to hoarding practice in the ‘middle level’ like distributors for the return of higher profit, head of Indonesian Consumer Foundation said.

“Someone has distorted the market. We ask the government to regulate ceiling price for health equipment like masks,” said Tulus Abadi, adding that there is no regulation on price setting.

Authorities around the world sought to calm panic buying of masks seen as a guard against the fast-spreading coronavirus. Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines had arrested nearly a dozen of people for selling overpriced masks, according to local reports. (Reuters)

(Production: Yuddy Cahya Budiman, Heru Asprihanto, Wahyuwidi Cinthya, Angie Teo)

Bat curry remains popular in Indonesia despite coronavirus outbreak

UNTV News   •   February 11, 2020

Business is brisk at restaurants in Indonesia’s Manado which serve bats, a local delicacy, undaunted by a coronavirus outbreak that is reported to have started at a live exotic animal market in China.

Media reports have suggested that bats, snakes and more recently pangolins are at the root of the epidemic which sees its epicentre in the central Chinese province of Hubei.

Viral experts speculate the virus may have originated in bats and then was passed on to humans possibly via another species.

But in Manado on Sulawesi island, bat vendors say they have not seen a slowdown in sales despite local media reports saying many restuarants were going to stop serving bat dishes in the city.

Stewed in spices and coconut milk, the local dish “paniki”, is popular among locals. In some parts of Indonesia, bat meat is used as medicine as locals believe it will cure asthma.

Many locals were confident that the virus was not circulating in the city and were therefore, not worried.

“We eat these kinds of food frequently,” said customer Vena Kasegar after she finished a plate full of bat stew. “God decides whether we get sick or not.”

The virus has spread to at least 27 countries and territories, according to a Reuters count based on official reports. But the virus has not been found yet in Indonesia. (Reuters)

(Production: Jeffry, Heru Asprihanto, Wahyuwidi Cinthya, Angie Teo)

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