Inability or Inertia?
Or just plain incompetence?
Comments are common about the government's failure to disseminate an effective tsunami warning to the dwellers on central Java's southern coast.
Everyone who could be culpable denies or is in denial which, of course, is of little comfort to the bereft survivors.
Rasyad A. Parinduri of Sarapan Ekonomi
suggests that "radio stations could have sent tsunami alarm
". This is, of course, the obvious way of reaching the masses, that and TV.
Apparently warnings were issued ~ by telephone, cellular phone text-messages, and letters, even direct (face to face) imparting
. Thus speaks
the Ministry of Research and Technology in its press release copied in Rashid's blog.
Letters? Snail mail? When a letter can take weeks to arrive and a tsunami mere minutes?
By telephone when 50% of the population don't have access to one?
By SMS when coastal dwellers live below the poverty line?
"Seven minutes after the quake, we sent hundreds of text messages to "ministers, district heads and mayors as well as some police.
" The message however told them just the longitude and latitude of the quake. There was no specific tsunami warning at all.
The responsible government department, the Ministry of Research and Technology MUST admit its culpability
I presume that is the reason for SBY's statement today from Pangandaran that he wants a full warning system in situ
along the tectonic plate (earthquake faultline) of Indonesia's southern coastline within two years*
That should be of some comfort to the surviving surfers at Pangandaran
Again, we are indebted to Rashid for translating the tsunami warning timeline
from Koran Tempo
(the daily newspaper of the Tempo
group) - login necessary.Four minutes after the quake struck at 15.19 (Jakarta time) the Agency's "early warning system" automatically sent 400 text messages about the quake to, among others, government officials and radio stations. There was no tsunami warning, however. Moreover, it turns out that many of the intended receivers did not get the message, including the managers of Radio 68H and the state-owned radio network, RRI.
The tsunami hit Pangandaran at 16.15 WIB, about 39 minutes after the tsunami warning was issued by Pacific Tsunami Warning Center and almost one hour after the quake struck.
If someone could acknowledge that there was a breakdown in communications, that no attempt was made to follow up the initial warnings or to check that they were being acted upon, then maybe, just maybe, there is hope for the future.
Hope that the tsunami warning system promised by SBY will be effective because there will be an agency responsible for its maintenance and for disseminating the appropriate responses
to those affected by the warnings.An effective tsunami early warning system is achieved when all persons in vulnerable coastal communities are prepared and respond appropriately, and in a timely manner, upon recognition that a potentially destructive tsunami is coming.
Timely tsunami warnings issued by a recognized tsunami warning centre are essential. When these warning messages are received by the designated government agency, national tsunami emergency response plans must already be in place so that well-known and practiced actions are immediately taken to evaluate the scientifically-based warning, and communicate an appropriate course of action to ordinary citizens.
Tsunami preparedness programmes must already have started so that good decisions can be made without delay.
However, with officials still more concerned with saving face, I'm beginning to think that first they should lose their jobs. (Some are calling for their heads
.)*Tempo reports that six early warning signals are to be installed off the West Sumatra coastline.
The signals or sirens will be built around a kilometer from the beach of five cities and regencies located along the coastline. Two of them are in Padang and the remaining sirens will be in Pesisirselatan, Kota Pariaman, Padangpariaman and West Pasaman.
"It is expected to be finished by the end of 2006," Sumarso, Head of BMG of Padangpanjang, said today. Similar sirens will also be constructed in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam and Bali.
Those affected by the recent tsunami hope that the southern coastline of Java will also be equipped with a similar system. And let's not forget other islands.
In recent history, before December 2004 in Aceh, there was a devasting earthquake and tsunami that killed 3000 people in Maumere, Flores, a region still prone to earthquakes.
But it's not just Indonesia that's at risk, of course. This country is the outer edge of the Pacific Rim, encompassing many countries. One should surely expect a more concerted international focus on natural disasters than the odd conference.
Outpourings of sympathy from heads of state following periodic 'Acts of God' are of minimal value. An animal that is capable of collectively consuming everything in sight is surely capable of exercising some control over the destiny of potential consumers.