Indonesia seeks to improve warning system as it marks 15 years since tsunami
UNTV News • December 26, 2019 • 343
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
Designers in Indonesia and Malaysia are adding their artistic touches to reusable face masks, providing essential supplies and style and uniqueness amid the pandemic.
In the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, Nicholas Septian Sugandi’s print shop had been losing business throughout his country’s mass-scale restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus, but thanks to a new product introduced in May, lost business has been “recovered”.
Sugandi’s shop has been printing customers’ faces onto reusable face masks so that they can “look like themselves” when wearing it.
Each of the reusable masks takes around 30 minutes to produce, and cost 50,000 Indonesian rupiah ($3) each. The print shop has received hundreds of orders.
Wearing a face mask remains a mandatory practice across Indonesia.
In neighbouring Malaysia, textile designer Hafiz Drahman has utilised traditional designs from around the region to create colourful cloth masks with interchangeable filters.
In particular, Hafiz uses Batik, which is a traditional Javanese art that uses wax and ink to decorate cloth, and is derived from the Javanese word “titik,” meaning “dot”.
“So, as a designer, I saw that as an opportunity to use the cloth that I had, that is Batik textiles, and turn it into face masks,” Hafiz said from his workshop in Shah Alam, on the outskirts of capital Kuala Lumpur.
Although face masks are not compulsory in Malaysia, people are encouraged to wear them to protect themselves in public areas.
Hafiz currently sells his masks at 20 ringgits ($4.68) each.
Indonesia currently has 50,187 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 2,620 deaths, the highest total in Southeast Asia, while Malaysia has recorded 8,600 cases and 121 deaths as of Friday morning (June 26). (Reuters)
The idyllic holiday island of Bali has also been hit by the effects of the coronavirus crisis, with 40,000 hotel bookings already having been cancelled and the island’s economy standing to lose almost $110 million per month as Bali’s Tourism Board reported.
With only two cases reported so far, the island particularly suffers from the cancellation of all flights to and from China, one of its biggest tourist markets.
Around a million Chinese tourists visit the holiday island every year. It is the second-largest group of foreign arrivals after Australians.
Bali’s airport spokesman told state news agency Antara this week that in the first half of February about 740,000 people visited the island, 16.25% fewer than the same period last year, despite precautionary measures like spraying disinfectants or measuring the temperature of all passengers upon arrival.
Bali’s Deputy Governor, Tjokorda Oka Artha Ardana Sukawati, told media after a meeting of the local parliament that tourism in Bali has declined by 30 percent due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Tourists who lounged at Bali’s idyllic beaches said the situation was still manageable as only a few positive cases had been reported.
Indonesia President, Joko Widodo, had announced on Monday that a mother and daughter had tested positive to the virus. The discovery of the first cases came after some medical experts had raised concerns about lack of vigilance and a risk of undetected cases in the country of more than 260 million people. (REUTERS CONNECT)
(Production: I Wayan Sukarda, Sultan Anshori, Heru Asprihanto, Ute Swart)
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