News / Asia

Indonesia Reviews Disaster Emergency Efforts

Tsunami survivors weep on ravaged Pagai island, in Mentawai Islands, Indonesia, 28 Oct. 2010.
Tsunami survivors weep on ravaged Pagai island, in Mentawai Islands, Indonesia, 28 Oct. 2010.

As Indonesia continues counting its dead from back-to-back natural disasters this week, officials are debating the effectiveness of the country's tsunami warning system.  The combination of a tsunami and a near-simultaneous volcanic eruption has left at least 343 people dead, a number that is expected to climb.


Thursday, rescue officials got a clearer picture of the damage a tsunami inflicted on Indonesia's remote Mentawai Islands, which swept away hundreds of homes and lives.

Failed system


A meteorology agency official says an early warning system implemented after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami failed.

The system was created to warn people to move to higher ground in the threat of a giant wave. But the official says it had been plagued by problems caused in part by inexperienced operators.

The 10-foot waves that wiped out entire villages, hit the Mentawais only minutes after the 7.7-magnitude earthquake that triggered it. But the head of the Meteorology and Geophysics Agency, Wandono, says the local government still had time to sound an alarm.

He says the agency released information about the earthquake and possible tsunami almost immediately. If the local government had used that information, it could have reduced the number of victims.

Supplies needed

After being delayed by bad weather, food, tents and clothing are arriving on the islands. Officials say they now expect a steady stream of supplies.

Groups of surfers who were some of the first to reach the scene say clothing is badly needed, since many people were left with nothing but what they were wearing. Arial photos show uprooted trees and concrete foundations that had been cleared of their wooden houses.

With rescue workers starting to arrive, search parties set out through the island's jungles to look for the hundreds of people still missing.



Removing ash


About 1,300 kilometers to the east, rescue workers are assisting nearly 40,000 evacuees around Mount Merapi, a volcano in Central Java that began spewing searing ash and debris Monday evening.

Authorities continue to search the ash-covered slopes for survivors, and volunteers are removing dead livestock to prevent the spread of disease.

Many of the victims suffered from severe burns caused by hot clouds of gas that swept down the mountain.

Ignored warnings

Among the victims was a respected elder who many residents considered the mountain's spiritual guardian, charged with appeasing fickle spirits.

Widi Sutikno, head of emergency response in the district of Sleman, says local beliefs were the reason many of those who live on the volcano ignored earlier evacuation warnings.

He says officials urged people to evacuate, but residents believed their own local wisdom would tell them when it was the right time to leave. Sutikno says because of rain and bad weather, they could not see the hot gas clouds.

Another explosion?

Tuesday's blast eased pressure building up beneath a lava dome. Since then the volcano has been largely quiet, but scientists have not ruled out the possibility of an even larger explosion.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono headed to Sumatra after cutting short a visit to Vietnam to help manage the government's response to both disasters.

You May Like

Pundits Split Over Long-Term US Role in Afghanistan

Security pact remains condition for American presence beyond 2014; deadline criticized More

US Eyes Islamic State Threat

Officials warn that IS could pose a threat to US homeland More

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Moscow says Russian troops crossed into Ukrainian territory by mistake More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocksi
X
George Putic
August 25, 2014 4:00 PM
How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.
Video

Video Peace Returns to Ferguson as Community Tries to Heal

Thousands of people nationwide are expected to attend funeral services Monday in the U.S. Midwestern city of St. Louis, Missouri, for Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer August 9 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The shooting touched off days of violent demonstrations there, resulting in more than 100 arrests. VOA's Chris Simkins reports from Ferguson where the community is trying to move on after weeks of racial tension.
Video

Video Meeting in Minsk May Hinge on Putin Story

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine are expected to meet face-to-face Tuesday in Minsk, along with European leaders, for talks on the situation in Ukraine. Political analysts say the much welcomed dialogue could help bring an end to months of deadly clashes between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces in the country's southeast. But much depends on the actions of one man, Russian President Vladimir Putin. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Russia in July enacted a law threatening fines for publicly displayed profanity in media, films, literature, music and theater. The restriction, the toughest since the Soviet era, aims to protect the Russian language and culture and has been welcomed by those who say cursing is getting out of control. But many artists reject the move as a patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

Security services are racing to identify the Islamic State militant who beheaded U.S. journalist James Foley in Syria. The murderer spoke English on camera with a British accent. It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for the Islamic State, also called ISIL or ISIS, alongside thousands of other foreign jihadists. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from the center of the investigation in London.

AppleAndroid