Sometimes our work for StIRRRD throws up unexpected opportunities to support the communities we work with – not just in our normal resilience projects, either. The story of Rawa Indah school shows what can happen when scientists and communities work together – with a little fundraising help from our friends.
The buildings and grounds of Rawa Indah school were in urgent need of rehabilitation. Take the school yard, for example. The School Principal, Laurensius Pambudi, had previously told us this was a priority project for them, as it is the evacuation meeting point for the entire school in the event of an emergency. The yard is not currently suitable for this purpose, as it is dusty and pitted in the dry season, and becomes very muddy during the rainy season.
Back home in NZ, one of the StIRRRD team members was asked to present to Balclutha Rotary Club about StIRRRD, particularly about the DRR work being undertaken in Seluma. Following this presentation, Rotary offered to donate $500 to Rawa Indah School so they could pave the yard.
Balclutha Rotary supports both local and international projects, particularly in developing nations. In the past they’ve supplied emergency response kits and supported an expert dental and educational support group to work in Cambodia. Rotary member Gabrielle Schou said that the project fitted well with Rotary’s core values, and supporting projects aligned to Rotary’s six areas of focus (includes basic education and child health) is very important.
The StIRRRD team were more than happy to facilitate this donation, and we will continue to look for other opportunities which can help Rawa Indah become more resilient. We made some great friendships within the village through this project, and look forward to seeing their progress in coming years.
We can only imagine how horrific it currently is for the people of Central Sulawesi, following the magnitude 7.5 earthquake that struck Donggala and Palu on late Friday afternoon 28th Sept 2018. The damaging tsunami which struck Palu Bay at incredible speeds a reported 30mins after the quake happened, caused wide spread destruction. This was on top of significant damage due to the earthquakes north of the city and also along the Palu-Koru Fault. Tsunami waves as high as 5.5m crashed ashore in the already damaged city, destroying buildings, smashing vehicles and killing hundreds of people.
Palu and Donggala are both StIRRRD districts and the StIRRRD team have been working in these areas over the past 7 years. We have many colleagues and friends in the community and we wait anxiously for news of how they are.
The team were last in Palu and Donggala in March 2018, installing seismometers in 3 schools in the area plus one at the university. The seismometers are intended as an educational tool to help the students understand the seismology of the area and to stimulate discussions about earthquakes and tsunami; their causes, hazard mitigation, preparedness and response actions. Students learned the importance of natural warnings for tsunami, and how to Drop, Cover and Hold. We hope these discussions in March were able to help those teachers and students with their actions in this event.
The current death toll has exceeded 840 and is expected to rise sharply over the coming days and weeks, leaving the StIRRRD team deeply concerned for our friends and colleagues who we’ve not been able to contact. In addition to the death toll, an estimated 2.4M people have been affected, with six hundred people hospitalised and 48,000 people displaced. The isolation of affected communities and the scarcity of resources is making response efforts difficult.
The tsunami was bigger than anticipated and the generation mechanism likely more complex than originally thought. The fault that ruptured on Friday was a so-called strike-slip fault, in which the earth movement is largely horizontal. That kind of movement would not ordinarily create a tsunami. However, a strike-slip fault might have some amount of vertical motion that could displace seawater. The fault’s rupture zone, may pass through an area where the seafloor rises or drops off, so that when the fault moves during the quake, it pushes seawater in front of it. Another possibility is that the tsunami was created by an undersea landslide, caused by the intense shaking. Determining the exact cause of the tsunami will have to wait until the sea floor can be examined. The shape of Palu Bay has no doubt contributed to the size of the waves in Palu, with the waves’ energy being focused (amplified) along the hairpin shaped bay.
In the 7 years the StIRRRD team have been working with Palu, and more recently Donggala, the districts have been making steady progress in improving their resilience. The team have been impressed by the dedication of the local government staff working in this field and Tadulako University’s efforts to improve their teaching programmes.
Tadulako University was also about to host its first international conference on Urban Disaster Resilience in November 2018: (http://fatek.untad.ac.id/icudr/)
It’s still early days, and building resilience requires a sustained effort over generations. This combined earthquake and tsunami event has been devastating. This has always been possible in this part of the world but it’s not what you ever anticipate will actually happen. This will set Palu and Donggala back, but it has redoubled our resolve to work with our friends and colleagues there to look to the future and ensure risk reduction is built into the recovery process.