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Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Flash Flood, An Earthquake and A Tsunami, A Mount Eruption- Three Natural Disasters in Indonesia in One Month

Local children observe Indonesian military personel unload relief goods for tsunami victims in the Mentawai islands at the port of Sikakap village in the Metawai islands, West Sumatra, on October 30, 2010. More than 130 people listed as missing have been found alive on high ground on a remote Indonesian island that was devastated by a tsunami five days ago, an official said (Kompas.com).

JAKARTA, KOMPAS.com - The Earth is getting older, judging by the increased  frequency of natural disasters in the world lately, especially in Indonesia. During this October alone, parts of the country have been seriously affected by three major disasters. The first one was a flash flood in Wasior, West Papua Province, on October 3.

The second was a magnitude-7.7 earthquake and a subsequent tsunami in Mentawai Island District, West Sumatra Province, on October 25. And the third is still going on, namely the Mount Merapi eruption, a process  which began on October 26 on the border between Central Java and Yogyakarta.

The Wasior flash flood killed 124 people, left 123 others missing,  injured 185 others seriously, and 535 lightly.  Wasior is a town densely inhabited by around 7,000 people. The flood made around 4,000 people  homeless.

Residents gather to inspect the damage suffered by an area affected by a flash flood in Wasior, Papua province, Indonesia, Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2010. Heavy rain unleashed flash floods and mudslides, killing dozens of people in a remote corner of the country that rescuers were still struggling to reach days after the storms began, officials and witnesses said Tuesday. (AP Photo/Abdul Muin)

Some 1,955 displaced Wasior residents were evacuated to Nabire, 890 to Manokwari and some others to the Teluk Wondama area. A total of 12 school buildings and one hospital were damaged by the flash flood.

The flash flood was triggered by incessant heavy rains that had fallen in the region from Oct 3 to 4. Those who died in the disaster were those who drowned  after being carried away by the flood currents that also carried  logs and rocks from a lake in the mountain.

The emergency response lasted until end October 2010, with priorities to search and evacuate victims, town cleaning up, house and school reconstruction. Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare Agung Laksono said  the government was  studying the possibility of relocating the flood victims.

"The government will find the best and most secure place for them," the minister said recently.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono visited  flash flood-devastated Wasior to meet the victims and he ordered the setting up a trauma center and temporary shelters for them. While the Indonesian people were still grieving about the devastation and fatalities caused by the flash flood in Wasior, a magnitude-7.7 earthquake and  subsequent tsunami struck Mentawai Island District, West Sumatra Province, on October 25, 2010.

The earthquake and tsunami killed at least 408 people, caused 303 others to go missing, injured 270 badly and 142 lightly. The disaster devastated 517 buildings and caused minor damage to 204 buildings. Around 23,000 people have been left homeless and forced to stay in refugee camps.

Obliterated: surviving villagers of Muntei Baru Baru in the Mentawai islands wander where hundreds of homes stood until the 10ft wave came ashore (London Evening Standard)

Ade Edwar of a local mitigation agency said the powerful earthquake and tsunami devastated 517 buildings and caused minor damage to 204 buildings, including four elementary school buildings, one junior high school building, four churches, 426 houses, and 10 bridges, while more than 200 houses suffered minor damage.

Around 22 aftershocks with magnitudes ranging from 5 to 6.2 on the Richter scale, had jolted the district up to Saturday. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was forced to leave the ASEAN Summit in Hanoi to visit Mentawai on Thursday.

He  asked the West Sumatra governor and Mentawai district head to coordinate efforts at relocating the tsunami victims. Just one day after the Mentawai earthquake and tsunami, Mount Merapi, one of Indonesia’s most active volcano has started to erupted on October 26, 2010.

A total of 32 people, including Mbah Maridjan, "the spiritual caretaker" of the volcano, were killed, and tens of others were injured.   Mount Merapi erupted again several times early Saturday morning  (Oct 30) causing residents living closest to the volcano to abandon their villages or settlements in panic.

A good sign … a vulcanologist said this eruption at Mount Merapi yesterday might stabilise it. Thirty-two people died when it first erupted, on Tuesday (smh.com.au).

Around 40,000 people have so far been evacuated to safer places following the eruption of Mt Merapi which is located in the border of Central Java and Yogyakarta and has erupted regularly since 1548. Indonesia is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world because it is located on the Pacific Ocean’s "ring of fire" of volcanoes and earthquakes.

One of the worst disasters hitting Indonesia was a 8.9 earthquake and a subsequent deadly tsunami which devastated Aceh Province (northern Sumatra) and Nias Island (North Sumatra Province) on December 26, 2004. The gigantic tsunami killed at least 200,000 people  and left around one million people homeless in Aceh and on Nias alone. The impacts of the tsunami had also affected badly other countries such as Sri Lanka, Thailand, and India.

In 2006, at least two major earthquakes rocked Java Island. In May 2006, Yogyakarta and its surrounding areas were shaken by 6.3 earthquake which killed over 5,700 people and injured at least 38,000 others. In July, a 6.8-earthquake and a subsequent tsunami affected southern coast of West Java and killed more than 650 people, while at least 65 others missing. 

Another major earthquake was recorded on September 30, 2009,   with a magnitude of 7.9 on the Richter scale which devastated Padang city and several other towns in the provincial capital of West Sumatra, killing at least 1,117 people. A total of 1,214 people were suffering from serious injuries, and 1,688 others were lightly injured. However, unofficial estimates put the number of victims at thousands, as many were still buried under the ruins of the collapsed buildings.

The earthquake also destroyed 101,653 houses, and caused damage to 97,995 others in West Sumatera.  In 1883, Krakatoa, a volcanic island in the Sunda Strait between the islands of Java and Sumatra, exploded and killed around 40,000 people.

The explosion is still considered to be the loudest sound ever heard in modern history, with reports of it being heard nearly 3,000 miles from its point of origin. The shock wave from the explosion was recorded on barographs around the globe. And the lists of possible disasters might add as currently besides Mt Merapi, some other volcanoes especially Mt Anak Krakatau on the Sunda Strait and Mt Dempo in Pagaralam district, South Sumatera, are also showing increaded activity.

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