Indonesia Earthquake & Tsunami

Indonesia Earthquake & Tsunami

Indonesia Earthquake & Tsunami

A magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck the Indonesian island of Sulawesi on Friday, September 28. The earthquake, and a tsunami that followed, has killed over 1,300 people, the majority of whom live in the city of Palu in Central Sulawesi.

Rescue teams and media crews are still working hard to reach the worst hit areas of Palu, Indonesia. Clean water and food supplies are running low and in places there have been reports of shops and aid convoys being raided by those in need of support. Earlier this week UNOCHA stated that 191 000 people were in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. As at 1300 hours Jakarta time, the national disaster agency reported that there have been 1234 confirmed fatalities, 632 injuries, 99 people missing, 152 people requiring immediate rescue and 61 867 evacuees distributed over 109 sites. These numbers will rise. Gradually, over the coming days, it is anticipated that access will improve and the rate of travel and ease of access to the area will increase.


Many of our clients have been in touch to ask about the risk and planning considerations of working in, and in proximity to, the affected area. Our equipment team (stores@1stoptionsafety.com / +44 (0) 844 800 8875) are already equipping news teams with essential survival equipment and grab bags to enable to them to live and work in the devastated areas and we can help others with that too.

An earthquake is a sudden shaking of the earth caused by the breaking and shifting of rock beneath the surface of the earth. They can occur at any time, day or night, without warning.

Earthquakes are typically very difficult to predict. However, aftershocks can be expected and both landslides and tsunamis, as occurred in this instance, are often triggered by earthquakes and these should be planned for. Anyone who is looking to travel to these areas needs to carefully consider their need for travel – checking in with our team here and the FCO for any updates.

Assessing the resilience of the building or location you are in is really important if you think that there is a risk of aftershocks. An initial earthquake can cause serious structural damage which any aftershocks can then make even worse, resulting in further building collapse, power lines falling, gas leaks… Buildings and structures which are on an unstable surfaces or show evidence of damage are often most at risk.

Preparedness is really important to be able to respond quickly and effectively to an earthquake. Check your fire escapes and withdrawal routes and know where your ‘safe’ place will be. It is a myth that doorways will protect you – they will not. What will is strong furniture away from windows and furniture that may collapse on you. Understand what is meant by ‘Drop’ (to the ground), ‘Cover’ (get cover) and ‘Hold On’ (self-explanatory). A lot of people are hurt as they try to move whilst the ground is shifting, so there is an emphasis on limiting movement. If the location you are in have emergency plans for an earthquake, then familiarise yourself with them. Personally, I would recommend having a ‘grab bag’ with essential items ready to go by your side and with you in at risk areas. Our equipment stores have pre designed personal grab bags ready to go or can work with you to build a bespoke kit list – get in touch quickly if you would like one of these.

Have in place an evacuation plan, particularly if you are in a low lying coastal area that may be vulnerable to tsunami, and make sure that any vehicles required for this are fuelled and good to go, as well as being right for the terrain. Effective communications and tracking is required. I would carry a Garmin In Reach given the choice – these are available from our equipment team, and I would also carry basic survival equipment, making sure that I am able to keep warm, in shelter, with clean water and food if needed.

If you do need to leave the area you are in, take the stairs (not the lift!) and find a clear area of ground away from the risk of falling buildings and power lines. I would also think carefully about security. Access to finance may be very limited in affected areas, and the cash you travel with, perhaps necessary for quick access to facilities and local support, will be quickly noticed if not carefully managed. Throughout, consider your profile and perception of your footprint, being sensitive to this is an important mitigation to criminal risk.

After the shaking has stopped, check your immediate area for risks – including structural damage. Those who have completed one of our travel safety, hostile environment courses or first aid courses will have their training to call upon here! Get to a safe place and look after any injured people – remembering assistance may be essential, but that the emergency services are likely to be stretched. Having a good first aid kit and a trained first aider or medic is really important. Risks such as fire and further structural collapse are clearly heightened after an earthquake – plus the likelihood of gas leaks goes up – if you need to get clear then do so. Dangerous substances may have leaked and so be cautious of this risk – equally keep an eye out for any children – unfortunately those who have lost parents or family are really vulnerable in the aftermath of a disaster and getting them to someone who cares, quickly, is a great thing to have done.

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Paul Greeves
Paul.Greeves@1stOptionSafety.com