Indonesia Did Not Act on Tsunami Warnings
19 July 2006
Indonesia did not act on tsunami>warnings
By Chris Brummit
INDONESIA received warnings from two regional agencies that Monday's earthquake had the potential to trigger a tsunami, but did not attempt to pass them on to threatened communities, a government minister said.
Science and Technology Minister Kusmayanto Kadiman said Indonesia received bulletins from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre and Japan's Meteorological Agency after the quake, but "we did not announce them". "If it (the tsunami) did not occur, what would have happened?" he said to reporters in Jakarta. He did not elaborate.
The warnings were sent around 45 minutes before the tsunami struck. Without an automated system in place to pass them on to villagers via loudspeakers on beaches or mobile phone text messages, the evacuation of significant numbers of people would have been unlikely.At least 340 people were killed in the disaster, officials said yesterday, with more than 600 injured. Nearly 230 others were missing. Hundreds of bodies were recovered today from beaches, homes and hotels ravaged by the second tsunami to hit Indonesia this decade. Corpses covered in white sheets piled up at makeshift morgues, with several others - including a six-month-old baby — lying beneath the blazing sun in the popular tourist resort of Pangandaran. But the search for survivors continued, with parents among the last to give up. "The water was too strong," said Irah, the mother of a six-year-old child as she dug through a pile of rubble with her bare hands, close to the spot where she last saw her son. "Oh God. Eki, where are> you?" "I don't mind losing any of my property, but please God return my son," said Basril, a villager who goes by one name, as he and his wife searched though mounds of rubble at the once idyllic Pangandaran resort on Java island's southern coast. Most of those killed were Indonesians, but a Pakistani, a Swede and a Dutch> citizen were among the dead, local and consulate officials said. At least 42,000 people fled their homes, either> because they were destroyed> or in fear of another tsunami, adding to> difficulties in getting causality> figures.> > Vice President Jusuf Kalla said no warning was> issued locally because most> people fled inland after they felt the earthquake,> fearing a tsunami.> > "After the quake occurred, people ran to the hills> ... so in actual fact> there was a kind of natural early warning system,"> he told reporters in> Jakarta.> > Coastal residents reported that they did not feel> the earthquake.> > At the main regional emergency centre, the Banjar> Public Hospital, doctors> and nurses scrambled to treat a steady stream of> patients — most from the> Pangandaran coast. Some slept on dirty mattresses on> the floor, while others> were treated in the admissions hall amid a bustle of> family members> searching for loved ones.> > Among a handful of foreign patients was Hamed> Abukhamiss, a 40-year-old> Saudi who lost his wife and four-year-old son.> > Enormous waves separated the family as they enjoyed> an afternoon of surfing,> shopping and eating at a Pangandaran waterfront> cafe.> > Mr Abukhamiss, who suffered minor injuries, said he> told himself as he was> repeatedly sucked under the current and battered by> debris: "I'm not going> to give up. I'm not going to die."> > Indonesia was hardest hit by a 2004 tsunami that> killed at least 216,000> people along the Indian Ocean rim — more than a half> of them on Sumatra> island's Aceh province.