Much has been made of the damage to Palu city as a result of the Sept 28 2018 earthquake, tsunami and liquefaction induced debris flows, but less mention is made of impacts in surrounding districts. While on a recent visit to Palu we visited Sigi district which was, and still is, very badly affected.
Sigi district is more rural than Palu and provides a lot of the food (rice and other crops, plus eggs and poultry) for Palu. The earthquakes changed the drainage patterns, ruined irrigation channels and the debris flows have completely ruined arable land.
Gadjah Mada University (UGM) is supporting farmers in Jono Oge village in Sigi by helping with alternative access to water for irrigation, and providing irrigation equipment and seeds for planting. The water level is only 3-4 metres below the surface and boreholes are easily dug. Portable pumps are moved around the different boreholes.
Progress is painfully slow with the provision of permanent housing, livelihoods, schools and water for irrigation. Without the latter, the locals have no opportunity to replant crops. Water is currently not being diverted from the nearby river as the irrigation channels are damaged and there is concern that they contributed to the cause of the liquefaction induced debris flow in the first place.
Thanks to UGM for their initiative in Jono Oge village which is bringing water back to one of the villages in Sigi. Here’s hoping more help comes their way soon.
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.
The StIRRRD team were back in Donggala this week on our third visit, supporting the local disaster management agency in its final stages of developing an action plan aimed at reducing risk. Many stakeholders joined the discussion and there will be follow-up workshops to fine-tune the details next week.
The plan is an attempt to coordinate risk reduction activities across different local government work units: development planning, public works, health, disaster management, education, agriculture, environmental management, etc. It also involves and is supported by the local university, Tadulako University, and NGOs.
Workshop participants listen to Dr Agung Setianto from Gadjah Mada University.
The plan was presented to Donggala’s parliament which generally supported the workplan. We hope that greater priority will be given to DRR and a greater budget allocated as a result. A robust debate was had about the role deforestation and aggregate mining were having on increasing risk, particularly increasing the frequency of landslides, flooding and coastal erosion. It was great to see the awareness of these issues and local government debating ways of managing these problems. The proof will be in changes over time, one step at a time.
Presenting the Action Plan to Donggala Parliament.
The team also took the opportunity to meet with colleagues from Tadulako University, who are an important stakeholder and who will help local government tackle the DRR challenges in the district. Tadulako are taking initiatives to develop capability in risk modelling and are involving students in capturing building asset data in Palu on tablets in order to better understand the vulnerability of different types of buildings to natural hazards. See an earlier blog on Riskscape training.
Members of the StIRRRD team attended the Indonesian National DRR Awareness Event held over 16th-19th October 2015 in Solo, Central Java.
In 2009, the UN agency UNISDR (United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction) established October 13th as the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction. This provides an opportunity for countries to promote the culture of disaster risk reduction, including disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness.
In Indonesia, a focus on DRR has become part of the national DRR agenda and events of some shape or form have been held every year since 2011 – Yogyakarta (2011), Yogyakarta (2012), Mataram (2013) and Bengkulu (2014). This year (2015) it’s Surakarta’s (Solo’s) turn to host the event.
Thousands of people attended the series of events over the weekend which included opening and closing ceremonies, 24 special sessions, 8 side events, 3 working sessions, and an exhibition which gave hundreds of organisations and local agencies a chance to showcase the work they were doing in disaster risk reduction and disaster management.
The StIRRRD programme hosted a Special Session which was attended by the NZ Ambassador to Indonesia (H.E. Dr. Trevor Matheson), the Governor of Central Java (Ganjar Pranowo), the Rektor of Gadjah Mada University (Prof. Dwikorita Karnawati), the Chief Executive of GNS Science (Dr. Mike McWilliams) as well as senior Indonesian Government officials, Dody Ruswandi (BNPB) and Suprayoga Hadi (KDPDTT).
There was much spirited discussion from the audience, who raised issues ranging from the consideration of disabled persons in DRR planning, to difficulties with the rules around the use of contingency funds after a disaster. One thing that emerged from the discussions was the need to ‘make a start’. With long lists of tasks and limited budgets, the DRR path can be overwhelming. It’s important to remain focused, prioritise the work that’s needing to be done and take one step at a time.
The StIRRRD team also had a booth in the exhibition space which showcased the StIRRRD programme through videos and the UGM developed early landslide warning system. Our booth was fortunate in that the Governor together with the NZ Ambassador made a point of stopping at the booth and discussing the work featured.
The very high level of participation in the event and the commitment shown by participants at the working and special sessions bodes well for the future and we hope that DRR ‘takes off’ and gets the priority it needs to have across all districts and provinces in Indonesia.
More information about the event and the ‘Solo Declaration’ can be found at
We’re back in Donggala, Central Sulawesi, following on from our introductory visit here in November 2014.
This time we’ve worked with local government staff and NGOs to develop a natural hazard risk reduction action plan for Donggala. To prepare for the action plan we first discussed Donggala’s hazards, risks and current risk reduction practices and discussed a range of risk reduction options. As well as StIRRRD team expertise in earthquake engineering, landslide early warning systems, GIS mapping, social science and risk reduction expertise, we also included in our team river flood and debris flow management expertise from local government in New Zealand (James Flanagan and Michael Goldsmith) and tsnuami expert Gegar Prasetya.
It feels like we’re now up and running here with our programme. We’ve completed our first group of Introductory Visits and met with well over 150 people in the districts we visited – Palu, Donggala, Mataram, Bengkulu, Padang and Pesisir Selatan.
The StIRRRD team arrived in Palu on 9 November 2014 to kick-off the StIRRRD Activity. Palu is the capital of the Province of Central Sulawesi and is quite a large city with a population of about 350,000. The active Palu-Koro Fault has shaped the landscape, with earthquakes, landslides, and debris flows a common occurrence.