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

In China, Mixed Signals on Ebola Controls

How authorities are monitoring at-risk individuals remains unclear, including whether there are quarantines for Chinese health workers returning from West Africa More

Video Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Elections

Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power 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.
Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Electionsi
X
October 31, 2014 4:10 AM
Public opinion polls show American voters are deeply dissatisfied with their government and anxious about threats from abroad. This is especially true for a key voting group both Republicans and Democrats are trying hard to win over: women. Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats, with majority control of the Senate at stake. VOA’s Cindy Saine looks at the crucial role women voters will play in deciding the elections.
Video

Video Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Elections

Public opinion polls show American voters are deeply dissatisfied with their government and anxious about threats from abroad. This is especially true for a key voting group both Republicans and Democrats are trying hard to win over: women. Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats, with majority control of the Senate at stake. VOA’s Cindy Saine looks at the crucial role women voters will play in deciding the elections.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid