Harrowing Tsunami-Quake Strikes Indonesia

Nature has gifted mankind not only with the expanse to build a shelter but also corresponding resources to sustain it. However, man is known to be ambitious and is seldom satisfied with the meagre resources he owns. Hence, we often witness the constant effort to interfere with nature’s virgin vegetation. Trees are felled to make tiny huts. Huts are replaced by medium sized buildings and the latter is demolished to build huge skyscrapers and bridges. This exposes a persistent dilemma – Is our earth’s surface is steady enough to withstand these continuous changes and structural developments? 

Our Earth is 4.543 billion years old, and despite being a habitable planet for human existence, it does get weary of the artificial changes that are being on it. Natural disasters are, in fact, nature’s way of alarming mankind to retract their steps and allow the planet to breathe organically. However, man’s stubborn nature fails to understand the signal, and eventually gives way to frequent deadly calamities like earthquakes and tsunamis.

The past month has been catastrophic for Indonesia with regard to threatening calamities. Indonesia has had to cope with a continuous risk of imminent natural disasters ranging from volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis. This can be attributed to the geographic location of the country, as it is situated on the Pacific Ring of Fire, a region with a high degree of tectonic activity. One only needs to remember the massive scale of destruction caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake with a 9.1 magnitude, whose epicentre was off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, and resulted in one of the deadliest tsunamis mankind has ever faced.

The earthquake that took place on the 5th of August, 2018 struck the coast of the island of Lombok, near the Loloan village in Indonesia, and the magnitude was revealed to be 6.9 on the Richter scale. The casualties have been reported to be at least 91 people, and the tremors of the earthquake were felt as far away as the island of Bali. The destruction that took place has been described as “massive” and this disaster wrecked havoc as bridges collapsed, roads were blocked and blackouts took place. Days earlier, on the 29th of July, another earthquake hit the country, resulting in the death of 16 people, and injuring more than 300. The recent 7.5 magnitude earthquake followed by a deadly Tsunami in Indonesia’s Sulawesi Island, shook the entire South-East Asian nation. The ever-increasing death toll and the destruction brought about by the disaster has not only crippled the country but has also raised the need to study tectonic movements closely. Nonetheless, the cause of this calamity was quite different from the disastrous disasters that the country has witnessed in the past. Tsunamis are often caused by a thrust earthquake where tectonic plates move vertically upwards. However, this recent disaster was a rare and different one. It was the result of a ‘strike-strip fault’ where tectonic plates shift horizontally.

Right after the country experienced this earthquake and its aftershocks, a tsunami also took place in the island of Palu. The earthquake coupled with the tsunami caused the death of at least 1400 people. Shockingly enough, the damage had not been done with, as this was soon followed by the eruption of Mount Soputan, an active volcano on the Sulawesi Island itself, which spewed lava and ash more than two and a half miles into the air. This posed possible difficulties in air travel, and immediate evacuations were ordered for those living in close proximity to the volcano. As the death toll is on the rise, a great number of people have been severely injured, and the hardest hit areas have been suffering from destruction of infrastructure, communication lines, and lack of basic subsistence like food, water and medicines. More than 60,000 people were displaced by this disaster, and overall the repercussions were cataclysmic.

The question that arises is whether these activities were related. Scientists have speculated that this might be true, although it has not yet been determined for sure whether the eruption was indeed triggered by the earthquake. Certain possibilities for the disaster have been discerned, one such being that the quake stimulated an underwater landslide, which displaced water and resulted in the tsunami. And the narrow shape of the bay intensified the tsunami as the effect was magnified as the wave energy was concentrated on the coastline as it rolled towards Palu.

Regardless it can be said without a doubt that Indonesia has indeed suffered tremendously, with back to back disasters hitting the country within a very short span of time. The people need to be aided in whatever way possible to overcome the ravages of this course of events. The President of the United States of America, Donald Trump, contacted the Indonesian President, Joko Widodo, to offer support and assistance both during this crucial phase and with reconstruction and recuperation from the harm caused to the nation. A number of NGOs and similar relief organisations have also come to the rescue and are helping the victims in whichever way possible.

Disasters cause a deep impact on children, and coping with the loss of loved ones becomes an almost impossible struggle. This is a problem, the onus of which needs to be taken not only by the victim country, but also nations and organisations from all over the world who need to join hands to help the sufferers emerge from the grave consequences. Natural disasters cannot be avoided but we can at most be prepared to deal with the harrowing repercussions, and always be ready to help others in need. Research over the causes of these disasters and prevention techniques are being probed into, and the need of the hour is to help Indonesia surface from this calamity and equip the country to stand on its feet again.

Contributed by Mallika Mohta and Rajeshwari Dutta.

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