Late last month a magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck the neck of the Minahassa Peninsula in Indonesia. It was just after 5.02PM Western Indonesian Time on the 28th of September; a Friday night and the beginning of a weekend that would rock the Island to, and from, its core.
The epicentre was located less than 10km below the mountain bases of Central Sulawesi (some 2,000km North-East of Bali) but its vibrations were felt as far West as Borneo and Malaysia. Despite the fiercest tremors rattling through Donggala Regency, where a maximum intensity of IX (violent) was recorded on the Mercalli scale, the apex of its devastation was in the provincial capital of Palu.
Less than an hour after the quake hit, a localised tsunami generating waves of between 4 and 7 metres surged through the seaside town, claiming the lives of thousands of inhabitants. At the time of impact, a festival called Pesona Palu Nomoni was commencing on the beach. The event was a celebration of art, music and natural beauty – a dark irony lost along with the majority of its day one attendees, who did not survive the collision.
The flooding also triggered major soil liquefaction – the phenomenon of saturated earth weakening in response to stress from forceful movement. The terrain became like quicksand and communication was paralysed across the island. Just as a marble would sink if it were placed atop a container filled with dirt and shaken aggressively, buildings in Palu were swallowed by the ground in swirls of seawater, street filth and concrete carnage.
People were trapped in their houses. Shopping centres, hotels and local businesses sank into the ground. 34 children on a Christian bible camp were crushed in a church. Hospitals, roads, airstrips, a mosque and the city’s most iconic bridge were also casualties. The Indonesian Agency for Technology Assessment and Application (BPPT) concluded that the energy released by the quake was 200 times that released during the 1945 nuclear bombing of Hiroshima.
In 2018, the death toll from natural disasters in Indonesia has now soared above 2,500. The affects these acts of Mother Earth have had on the country are profound, with entire communities losing everything from their infrastructure to their eldest and youngest members. These kinds of tragedies are not new to the nation though. Amid the top 20 most destructive Earthquakes in history, Indonesia features four times for a 9.1 in December 2004 (Boxing Day earthquake), an 8.6 in March 2005 (Nias-Simeulue earthquake), an 8.6 in April 2012, and a megathrust series starting with an 8.4 in September 2007. It is the only country to have achieved such geological infamy.
So why does this keep happening?
Indonesia sits atop a horseshoe-shaped belt of seismic activity known as The Ring of Fire. This 40,000 kilometres of unique geography extends across The Pacific Ocean connecting countries such as Japan, Canada, New Zealand and Chile; a prickly topographic vine bearing fruit in the form of 75% of the Earth’s volcanoes. 90% of earthquakes documented since the early 1800’s have occurred along the Ring of Fire. Its volatile subduction zones, where oceanic plates have converged with continental plates, are responsible for some of the world’s most revered mountain ranges.
The next most seismically hostile district is the Alpide belt, which has hosted 6% of the world’s earthquakes and spans from the northern Atlantic Ocean, through the Himalayas, southern Europe and down towards Java, Sumatra and Bali.
The notion that many hands make light work could not ring truer than in a disaster relief situation, particularly in a developing country. But when it comes to getting foreigners on the ground to offer aid in Indonesia, the hoops can be more tiresome than the aid itself. Despite more than 10 percent of Lombok’s population being displaced during a series of quakes that wreaked havoc on the island earlier this year, a national disaster was never called by the executive powers. Foreign non-governmental organisations were advised they were not needed and, as such, international support was never marshalled.
While Bali, Indonesia’s most economic tourist hub, has remained relatively unaffected by Indonesia’s slue of environmental calamities this year, the destruction of Sulawesi was enough to change the tune of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who accepted “urgent” foreign humanitarian aid within 72 hours of the earthquake striking. It’s unclear whether he was saving face in time for the 2019 general election or had learned from his country’s last natural disaster. The need for medical attention, clean water and shelter was in fact “urgent”, and as of October 17th, the World Health Organisation has lodged 1,793 health personnel on site in Palu.
But many hands… still benefit from many kinds of contribution.
How to donate to the relief effort from Bali?
Donate to Bumi Sehat – a not-for-profit organisation based in Bali who provide allopathic and holistic medicine, pre and post-natal care, breastfeeding support, infant, child and family health services, nutritional education and natural birth services. Bumi Sehat is working with IDEP Foundation, Kopernik and Direct Relief, to bring aid to the people of Sulawesi.
Donate to World Vision – a worldwide community development organisation. World Vision’s local relief team has already assessed the emergency needs and has relief supplies pre-positioned in the affected region.
Donate to Australian Red Cross – a humanitarian organisation that provides emergency assistance, disaster relief, and disaster preparation training. Indonesian Red Cross search-and-rescue teams, ambulances and first aid crews have been present since the earthquake first hit, providing survivors with medical treatment, distributing tarpaulins and sleeping mats for shelter, and conducting assessments.
Donate to UNICEF – a United Nations children’s organisation working in some of the toughest, most disaster stricken places in the world. UNICEF is already preparing to help reunite children with their families, feed the youngest and most vulnerable victims of the Earthquake, provide clean drinking water and comfort traumatised children.
Donate to Project Karma – a not for profit organisation who work predominantly to combat child sex exploitation in South East Asia, but also raise money for specific appeals. Project Karma is currently sending a relief team to assist the Indonesian authorities with providing medical and food support to Sulawesi.
Attend the indONEsia long weekend dance party fundraiser by Omnia & Conscious Club – to be held on the 10th and 11th of November at Omnia Dayclub in Uluwatu. Tickets are 200k with 100% of profits going to relief efforts. Header image via Jakarta Post.