Death Toll Tops 1,500
If bad luck comes in threes, Sulawesi is ready for some relief. It’s been ravaged by an earthquake and tsunami for a week, while one of many volcanoes on the island is spewing lava and ash. Call it an insult to the injuries already endured by local residents.
Last week, a shallow magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck in the neck of the Minahasa Peninsula, Indonesia, with its epicenter located in the mountainous Donggala Regency, Central Sulawesi. The quake was located 77 km (48 mi) away from the provincial Capital Palu and was felt as far away as Samarinda on East Kalimantan and also in Tawau, Malaysia. This event was preceded by a sequence of foreshocks, the largest of which was a magnitude 6.1 tremor that occurred earlier that day. Following the main shock, a tsunami alert was issued for the nearby Makassar Strait, but was called off half an hour later.
A localized tsunami struck Palu, sweeping shore-lying houses and buildings on its way. The combined effects of the earthquake and tsunami led to the deaths of at least 1,558 people. This makes it the deadliest earthquake to strike the country since the 2006 Yogyakarta earthquake, as well as the deadliest earthquake worldwide so far in 2018, surpassing the previous earthquake that struck Lombok a few months earlier.
The Indonesian Agency for Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics confirmed that a tsunami had been triggered, with its height reaching an estimated height of 4 to 7 meters, striking the settlements of Palu, Donggala and Mamuju along its path. The earthquake caused major soil liquefaction in areas in and around Palu. In two locations this led to mudflows in which many buildings became submerged causing hundreds of deaths with many more missing.
“It could be that this earthquake triggered the volcanic eruption, but the direct correlation has yet to be seen,” Kasbani, the head of Indonesia’s Vulcanology and Geology Disaster Mitigation agency, told online news portal Tempo.
More than 70,000 homes were destroyed or damaged by the earthquake and following tsunami that struck on September 28, launching waves as high as six meters that slammed into Sulawesi at 800 km/hour.
According to the Indonesian National Board for Disaster Management on Friday, the death toll from the quake and tsunami has risen to 1,571.
The head of Indonesia’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency – which has been accused of prematurely ending the tsunami warning during the deadly disaster in Central Sulawesi – has been asked to resign. It was alleged that another wave hit after the warning was lifted.
The death toll is expected to rise, as rescuers continue to sift through the ruins. Hundreds more could still be trapped under mud and rubble. The recent disaster has put disaster funding in the spotlight, as details emerged about agencies’ struggles to maintain tsunami buoys and earthquake sensors. None of Indonesia’s tsunami buoys has been operating since 2012, the spokesman for Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency, Dr. Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, revealed on Sunday, citing a decline in funding.
Many children have been separated from their families and are in shock and traumatized following Indonesia’s devastating quake-tsunami, aid workers said on Thursday (Oct 4), as much-needed supplies trickled in to shattered communities.
The Indonesian government initially refused to accept international help, insisting its own military could handle the response, but as the scale of the disaster became clear, President Joko Widodo reluctantly agreed to allow in foreign aid groups and governments. It’s still difficult to get relief supplies to survivors battling thirst and hunger. Palu airport only accepted military flights in the early stages of the disaster. It opened to commercial services Thursday, with aid workers given priority.
The United Nations is seeking $50 million for immediate relief to help victims. The UN plan, published on Friday and developed in consultation with Indonesian government officials outlined how the humanitarian community working in the country will provide targeted, technical assistance. The UN plan aims to provide help to 191,000 people over the next three months. The Red Cross is sending three ships loaded with supplies, including field kitchens, tents, body bags and mosquito nets, while governments from Singapore to Britain have pledged help.
Sulawesi, or Celebes, is one of the most beautiful destinations in Indonesia. It’s the world’s 11th largest island. With abundant beauty and natural riches, Sulawesi could become one of the major nature-based tourism centers in Southeast Asia. In fact, ecotourism can help the region recover.
Palu (PAH-loo) is the capital of Central Sulawesi. It’s dry, hot, and serves as the gateway to Lore Lindu National Park. Visitors can buy park permits at the park office in town or at field offices along the way. There is an interesting museum in town, the Museum Negeri Propinsi Sulawesi Tengah. Tanjung Karang is a nearby beach area with good snorkeling. More than 280,000 people reside in Palu.
Lore Lindu National Park (LOHR-reh LEEN-doo) is extremely remote and few people travel here. Attractions include large megalithic rock formations, high peaks, waterfalls, hot water springs, unusual birds, and a beautiful lake. Visitors can take short hikes in the park, but guides are required on longer treks that can last several days. Lindu is a collection of four indigenous communities—Anca, Tomado, Langko, and Puroo, which suround Lindu Lake. Just south of the city of Palu.
Sulawesi’s vast size and diverse landscape has yielded several distinct cultures. The rugged and remote interior helped isolate many traditional cultures, including the Toraja people, until the early 1900s. Meanwhile, other cultural groups on the island, such as the Bugis, have been seafaring fishermen and traders for centuries. Manado and Makassar are the major cities on the vast island.