Agam's Gecko
Tuesday, July 18, 2006

esterday, an earthquake and tsunami was reported striking the south coast of West Java, with the first quake happening just after 3 pm, and several others following soon after. By the time of the evening news, the wave was said to have caused six deaths around Pangandaran, a popular beach resort. The surf is always big there, and the current too dangerous for swimming. I have stayed in Pangandaran, and can imagine how an extra-large wave could cause that amount of casualties, with many people living near the beach. A tragedy, but not unheard of in Indonesia.

This afternoon I'm seeing aerial video of the affected area, and the devastation (of what I presume is Pangandaran town) is just terrible. It's clear now that the choice of the word "tsunami" was not simply out of recent familiar use. It looks just like Aceh did, only on a smaller scale. A true tsunami wave it surely was, and as of this afternoon, it has claimed at least 339 lives. Tsunami warnings were actually issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning System, but there was no local system in place to transmit the warning to the affected area. The first wave struck land about one hour after the first quake. The yet unfinished nation-wide warning system is expected to be completed in 2009.

Besides the hundreds of local victims, foreign casualties include Pakistani, Dutch and American citizens staying at the resort area, according to MetroTV this evening. I am not impressed with Vice President Yusuf Kalla, as quoted by AP in the linked report.
Answering questions from reporters as to why no warning was issued, Vice President Jusuf Kalla claimed there was no need for one because most people fled inland after they felt the earthquake, fearing a tsunami.

"After the quake occurred, people ran to the hills so that is the reason the number of victims is not as great as in Aceh," he said in Jakarta. "So in actual fact there was a kind of natural early warning system."
Just plain dumb. Wrong and dumb. And stupid.

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