Tsunami hits Indonesia

A Friday morning begins. Locals are on alert after experiencing an earthquake and aftershocks in their immediate area and seeing a tsunami warning. Half an hour after its issuance though, the warning is called off and disappears. People, thinking the danger is over, get in their cars to go for a drive or go on walks about the city. What they don’t see is the wall of water surging on the horizon and rushing directly towards them.

On Sept. 28, disaster struck Sulawesi, an island in Indonesia, in the form of a 7.5 magnitude earthquake and accompanying ten-foot-tall tsunami. The New York Times has stated that as of October 12, over 2,000 people have died and approximately 5,000 are thought to be missing. More than 80,000 have been displaced and Indonesian cities lie under rubble and debris that may litter the landscape for years to come.

This particular catastrophe is one that many in Sulawesi and surrounding areas found themselves unprepared for. The city of Palu was struck particularly hard; not only did it have to endure these catastrophes but has also been victim to liquefaction, a process in which a combination of groundwater and silt mix together sinking entire buildings.

After the disaster, new bodies were discovered daily and had to be buried as quickly as possible, not only to prevent the potential spreading of disease, but in accordance with Islamic belief. The vast majority of the Indonesian people are Muslim. Helicopters are now dropping disinfectant over some villages in an anticipatory effort to stop disease from unrecovered corpses. This is needed even more now in some areas after search efforts were called off on October 12,.

“Natural disasters” definitely damage lives because eventually support stops. It only goes so far and then after you get that they cut it off and move on to the next national disaster,” said first-year Megan Brewer.

Despite the vast amount of people that were recovered from the rubble, many victims are still missing.

“Some people are still trying to find their relatives’ bodies, so they can bury them and say goodbye,” said first-year Haydyn Foulke. “That’s their baseline, that’s what they’re hoping for. It’s horribly sad.”

According to CNN, the initial damage made it difficult for people involved in international aid to travel and transfer the necessary supplies to those affected. Not only was there a disparity between the equipment available and the drastic amount of damage sustained, with electricity out a lot of people on this island could not even communicate with each other or the outside world. Some individuals, desperate to recover their loved ones, attempted to search through the debris by hand.

Now, several weeks later, the people of impacted cities are finally started to receive some of the assistance that they need. Doctors Without Borders deployed a team to Sulawesi to help with medical issues, sanitation and other needs.

“Both domestic contribution and foreign assistance are needed to rebuild. Indonesia is a developing country that is still recovering from the colonial past and the legacies of the Cold War. It is also heavily populated, and the majority of people are still poor,” said Associate Professor of History Zhihong Chen. “There is a lot of need.”

Some neighborhoods in Palu, such as Balaroa and Petobo, are so destroyed that rebuilding is not even a future possibility. Instead, they are going to be dedicated to disaster victims and turned into green spaces.

Though this disaster is one of many in a long line of tragedies that have struck Indonesia, it is also one that will not soon be forgotten and demands awareness. A lot of resources and effort from both national and international sources are required to start rebuilding and to care for those who have been displaced, injured or are grieving.

“The world community needs to realize that any natural disaster is not just a disaster to the people affected, but a disaster to all humankind,” Chen said. “We need to pull together to fight disasters, no matter where they occur. Generally speaking, the world is now more disaster-prone. So more cooperation is needed in fighting disasters.”