At 10:08 am on Sunday 13 August, a magnitude 6.4 earthquake occurred off the coast of Sumatra, about 75km to the west of Kota Bengkulu (Figure 1). The earthquake occurred at a depth of around 35 km, and resulted in strong shaking in the Bengkulu and Seluma districts. The earthquake was felt as far away as Padang and South Sumatra but did not generate any tsunamis.
In North Bengkulu (the area closest to the quake) strong shaking was felt for about 10 seconds, causing some panic amongst locals. The most common response was to quickly move outdoors. Some minimal damage to buildings was observed, but there were no reports of casualties. The earthquake resulted in power outages in some parts of the district.
Bengkulu BPBD activated in response to the event, with staff undertaking field checks, and reporting for duty if a wider response was required. They were stood down later in the day.
There is significant seismic risk for many communities on the island of Sumatra, and the districts involved in the StIRRRD program have included a number of activities in their DRR Action Plans to better understand and reduce this risk. StIRRRD alumni are also working on a range of other seismic risk reduction activities. For example, at the University of Bengkulu, Dr. M. Farid is working to understand and map liquefaction hazard; and Universitas Andalas (Padang) staff are trialing a method to retrofit un-reinforced brick buildings with wire mesh, to improve their ability to withstand seismic shaking.
A recent GNS Science project involved a small team of Maori community leaders visiting the Agam Regency in West Sumatra, Indonesia.
The purpose of the journey was to exchange cultural knowledge and experience of natural disasters between representatives of Maori and the local Minangkabau people of Agam . Maori participants included Tui Warmenhoven and Jean Palmer of Ngāti Porou and Robyn Rauna, Ngāi Tāmanuhiri all from the Gisborne District, and Joe McLeod of Te Pringa O Te Awaikairangi in Lower Hutt. Accompanying the visitors were Phil Glassey and Julian Thomson from GNS Science, Dr Megan Collins, a musicologist who has extensive knowledge of the local Minangkabau culture indigenous to Agam, along with Drs Esti Anantsari and Arry Retnowanti from University of Gadja Mada (UGM).
After a traditional ceremonial greeting by the Regent, the first location of our visit was the Tiku community on the Agam coast. The people here depend largely on fishing for their livelihoods. They are also subject to a serious tsunami hazard as the coastline faces a major plate boundary fault.
We were introduced to a group of local women who had taken steps towards self-empowerment and community resilience through micro businesses related to fishing. This had different aspects, including economic, educational and disaster planning elements.
The women showed us how they had developed dried seafood products, which they sell under the label, ‘Beautiful Coral’, that can be stored long term which added value to the fish that were caught by the men in the community.
This local lady lived nearby. Although her husband died some years ago, as a couple, they had purchased land together, which she has now been able to develop with the assistance of Jemari Sakato, a local NGO supported by Oxfam. They gave her some chickens and a couple of goats. Over time she has expanded her livestock and, along with selling coconuts and caring for the neighbours cows, she has become financially independent. She is able to afford micro-insurance that protects her livelihood in case of a natural disaster.
There were many cultural treats for our group during our visit. Here is a performance of the Shi’a Islamic music called Tambuah Tasa (bass and snare drum ensemble), from Bukik Malintang, with dancers from the randai theatre group ‘Santan Batapih’. The drumming performance was incredibly powerful.
Next we headed inland and stopped at a village that had been designed and built in a Sumatran jungle clearing to house people who had been impacted by a large earthquake in 2009. There were roughly 120 identical houses, along with a mosque and community centre. The village is more or less ready, but yet to be occupied.
We then travelled on to Lake Maninjau. This is a dormant volcanic crater (caldera).
The people living on its shores rely on fishing also. The photo shows the nets used for intensive fish farming.
Because the sides of the crater are so steep, they are subject to many landslides that endanger the locals. This is one that we drove across and must have been very recent. The road had not yet been properly repaired.
These signs indicate evacuation routes down to the lake shore in case of an emergency.
From the lake we made our way to to Canduang and a traditional house called a Rumah Gadang, where we had been invited to stay the night. The traditional architecture of the roof is typical of the Padang area. The points represent buffalo horns from a legend in which a buffalo saved the local minangkabau people from invasion by the Javanese.
In Canduang we were again welcomed with by the Pasambahan dance, which this time included silek martial arts, demonstrated by senior masters. The two men were sparring with knives.
We shared a community meal inside the big house, which belongs to Mrs Zulharty and her extended family.
Afterwards, the team where treated to a performance of Saluang jo Dendang (flute and voices). Megan Collins also gave a performance on the rabab Pasisia Selatan (fiddle from the South Coast) singing the opening of a kaba narrative that was much appreciated by the local audience.
The Rumah Gadang is a meeting space with several bedrooms at the back. Communities in this area are based on small extended family units that live in each Rumah Gadang, and the family structure is matrilineal. Women have the main authority in the family and the oldest woman in the family owns the house. Her daughters each have a bedroom allocated and when they marry, their husband moves in to the house with them.
Here Jean and Robyn sit with the matriarch of the household , who is highly respected and is 92 years old.
Our next visit was up on to the slopes of Mount Marapi, a volcano that actively threatens surrounding settlements. In this photo it is seen from the town of Bukittinggi.
We were welcomed to Lassi village, on Mount Merapi, by the local disaster management group ‘Marapi Alert’ who demonstrated their katentong bamboo ‘clappers’. These make a very loud drumming noise when the handle is pushed back and forth, and are used as an alarm system to relay warnings of volcanic activity from village to village. Cellphones are also used.
Edi is the local co-ordinator for disaster risk reduction (DRR) activities in Lassi village. Here he explains the local volcanic hazards and about some of the projects that are used to develop local resilience and safety.
A powerful display of traditional martial arts from two teenage girls accompanied by boys playing the Tambuah Tasa drums at Sungai Pua, Mount Merapi.
Mr Datuak Mangkato Saripadois a master craftsman of the West Sumatran talempong gongs. His family has been making these classical instruments for nine generations. exports them all over Indonesia and Malaysia.
Mount Singgalang is the second large volcano that looms over Bukittinggi.
On our final day we visited Institute Seni Indonesia (ISI) Padang Panjang, a Tertiary Arts Institute. We learnt how performers of local music include stories of natural disasters that give information about the particular impacts they had on the lives of people. These stories are even woven into modern pop music and include recent events such as the damaging Padang earthquake of 2009 and flash floods in Kambang in 2011. Tui Warmenhoven and Jean Palmer give a talk on how knowledge of natural disasters in embedded in Maori traditional stories of the creation of Aotearoa.
Mrs Susasrita Loravianti, Mr Rafiloza from ISI and Megan Collins gave talks about West Sumatran music and dance, indigenous knowledge and disasters.
In this photo L to R: Tui Warmenhoven, Jean Palmer, Robyn Rauna and Joe McLeod
Held on 16 February, Morowali’s Action Plan workshop received positive feedback from local stakeholders and parliamentarians. Having experienced frequent flooding and coastal abrasion issues in recent years, local authorities have been concentrating reduction efforts on mitigating the impacts of these natural hazards, largely through physical works.
Morowali’s Vulnerability Profile
Working through Morowali’s vulnerability profile showed that while flooding and coastal abrasion are frequent occurrences, the threat of large earthquakes affecting the district is very high. Due to the presence of active faulting across Central Sulawesi and the specific location of some faults (see image), Morowali ranks in the top 40 out of 500 districts prone to earthquake activity across Indonesia.
Earthquakes: So what’s the risk Morowali?
In his presentation to workshop participants, Professor Iman Satyarno from UGM University, described the prevalence of the Matano Fault in central Morowali (see image). On 16 April 2012, a magnitude 5.8 earthquake occurred, located on or nearby this fault. The earthquake heavily damaged houses in two communities while also damaging Morowali’s government buildings. Two years later another earthquake occurred further to the east, causing less damage but still being felt across central Morowali. This recurrent activity is a reminder of the prevalent earthquake risk across the district.
Earthquakes: What are the DRR options?
While large earthquakes are relatively infrequent in Morowali, compared to other natural hazards, their impact may be substantially larger than the combined impact of smaller events. This concept has been recognised by members of local government, the emergency management agency (BPBD) and other key stakeholders attending the workshop.
These members of the community are now considering many initiatives to reduce the risk from future earthquakes. Such initiatives include methods to strengthen existing buildings, socialisation of information on building earthquake resistant structures, microzonation of land in close proximity to active faults and regulations for future development and construction.
A Quick Win for Morowali and StIRRRD
Having a wide representation of stakeholders to consider disaster risk reduction initiatives is key to ensuring efforts are coordinated. On 17 February, the StIRRRD team visited the local parliament to raise awareness of the project’s focus on Morowali District and seek support for the community’s action plan going forward.
During this meeting, local parliamentarians (DPRD) raised concerns regarding Morowali’s earthquake risk, particularly in regard to the Matano Fault, which had only been located in the district after boundary changes in recent years. DPRD representatives attending the previous day’s workshops were able to convey the district’s vulnerability profile to decision makers within a matter of hours. As a result, Morowali is now considering implementing earthquake resistant regulations and micro-zonation of properties in close proximity to the Matano Fault.
A great result for Morowali District and StIRRRD team from their short visit! The StIRRRD team will return to Morowali later in 2016 to provide feedback on the district’s risk reduction action plan.
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