International

Indonesia’s Tryst with Nature

The world’s largest island country in the world, Indonesia, with almost 700 languages and over 300 ethnic groups, is known for its diverse culture. Indonesia’s natural charm and beauty, along with its plethora of beautiful beaches and native art, attracts immense tourism from numerous parts of the world.  The country is famous for the relaxing environment of Elegant Bali, Indonesian Coffee, red haired orangutans, and the famous Spice Island among others.

Though Indonesia is equivalent to ‘paradise on earth’ topographically, geographically it is — quite literally– situated on a ring of fire. Home to many active volcanoes and prone to tsunamis and earthquakes, Indonesia is situated in the Pacific Ring Of Fire, where “90% of the world’s earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur”. CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar said: “Plate tectonics and the Ring of Fire are the main reasons why Indonesia has so many earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The earth below them is constantly changing and constantly moving.”

Let’s look into the episodes of natural disasters in Indonesia, which have collectively claimed approximately 123,000 lives since 2004. On the west coast of Indonesia, a 9.1 magnitude quake triggered a tsunami in 14 countries along the Indian ocean, killing more than 2 lakh people in 2004. In 2005, a deadly range of earthquakes hit the western coast of Sumatra causing the death toll to rise. In Java, the ancient city of Yogyakarta was rocked by a 6.8 magnitude quake in 2006, killing thousands and destroying almost 1 lakh homes. In 2009, more than 1,100 people lost their lives in the city of Padang, situated to the west of Sumatra, as it was struck by a 7.6 magnitude earthquake. In 2010, a 7.5 magnitude quake followed by a tsunami destroyed many villages. Even in the low magnitude quake of 2016, many people were crushed under buildings in Aceh, reminding them of the devastating consequences of natural disasters.

The recent 2018 tsunami caused by the partial collapse of Anak Krakatau volcano has shocked the world as the death toll has been increasing constantly in Java and Sumatra. The reason why this catastrophe seems more tragic than the rest is perhaps due to the activities that preceded the tsunami; on the day that it struck, an Indonesian pop band was having a concert for thousands of people.

It’s extremely saddening to imagine a fun week-end concert turning into a nightmare for all those near the beach. The Hindustan Times wrote that people were happily enjoying the warm night breeze on a beach under a full moon, the band’s lead singer was shouting in excitement “We are! We are Seventeen! Seventeen”, the crowd was pumped up, swaying, clapping and singing along.

Mamad Setiadi, who helped the pop band to set up, recalled “The perfect atmosphere suddenly changed dramatically in just seconds! I saw the seawater suddenly rising and pushing everything on stage, and I instinctively climbed a tree. From the top of the tree, I witnessed a horror that is difficult for me to describe in words. The seawater drowned everything….trees, cars, buses, benches- mixed with men, women and children! The sound of music turned into a hysterical scream!” he said.

A day they thought would be full of happiness, joy and unforgettable memories, truly became unforgettable and a last memory for most of them. As scary and devastating as it sounds, it will eventually be reduced to facts and figures for the rest of the world. A fisherman witnessing the tsunami recalled that people screamed ‘Run ! Run! A wave is coming’. “There were 3 waves in a row,” said the fisherman. Luckily his family and himself escaped the situation as they ran to higher ground.

This situation made me ponder about the country’s mitigation, disaster prediction and management strategies. Though the government adopted many ways and means to rescue people with the help of heavy mechanism and military, the Washington Post claims that the tsunami was  the ‘ultimate no-notice event’. It’s high time that the government of Indonesia takes the best precautionary steps to avoid such situations in the future, as it is shameful if it is caught off-guard even after knowing that Indonesia is prone to tsunamis and earthquakes. They have to build new warning systems, and aim to achieve prevention and precaution. To end in the words of Marjorie Liu:“We imagine ‘the end’ as a world-devastating event, but every time there’s a terrible earthquake, a tsunami, an outbreak of disease – that’s apocalyptic, on a micro-scale.”

Picture Credits : deseretnews.com



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