Heri Juanda/AP
Local residents wait for evacuation on a roadside following an earthquake in Banda Aceh, Aceh province, Indonesia, early Wednesday. A 7.3 quake earthquake hit waters off western Indonesia early Wednesday, prompting officials to briefly issue a tsunami warning. Panicked residents ran from their homes, some fleeing to high ground by car or motorcycle, but there were no reports of injuries or serious damage.
Rich Clabaugh/Staff

7.3 quake hits Indonesia again, but this time residents are better prepared

7.3 quake struck Indonesia early Wednesday morning, six years and one month after a devastating earthquake rocked Banda Aceh and South East Asia, causing tsunami warnings, but residents had escape routes planned.

Just hours after a 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of western Indonesia early Wednesday morning, stirring panic and a tsunami alert but leaving no visible damage, life had returned to normal. 

It was a forceful reminder for residents of Banda Aceh, the city closest to the devastating 2004 earthquake and Indian Ocean tsunami that killed more than 230,00 across South East Asia.

But despite lingering fears of the Dec. 26, 2004 monster wave that killed roughly 170,000 people in Aceh alone and altered the social fabric of the region, Rahmadi, who owns a small perfume shop in Banda Aceh says people are more prepared than they were a little over six years ago because of government programs.

“My parents put all our important things to a bag, and they know which road to use to escape,” says Rahmadi.

The US Geological Survey reported that the quake struck after midnight 261 miles southwest of the provincial capital of Aceh. On the nearby island of Simeulue, where the quake registered a 7.6 magnitude, according to Indonesia’s meteorology and geophysics agency, a hospital evacuated patients as a precaution.

Rahmadi says the earthquake was longer than smaller ones that routinely hit the area.

“The ground just kept shaking and shaking,” says the man, who goes by one name. “Everybody was outside. People’s faces were panicked.”

Warning sirens blaring from neighborhood mosques stirred most residents from their slumber. Many merely gathered nervously in the streets, but some hopped in cars and on motorbikes and drove away from the sea. 

Rahmadi said some of his neighbors stayed outside for more than an hour after the quake, mostly because they feared a tsunami. “They were worried to go to back to sleep.”

Nervous, but better informed

Despite their nervousness, much of resident's better understanding of earthquake and tsunamis come from efforts by the National Agency for Disaster Management (BNPD), the United Nations Development Program and international aid agencies to distribute information to residents about how to respond to natural disasters. 

The UNDP frequently publishes information in local newspapers and hands out leaflets about disaster mitigation, says 20-something Rahmadi, who like many of his generation are less fearful of potential tsunamis than their elders. “Older people still don’t understand,” he says.

The disaster management agency has an annual budget of $550 million for preparedness activities, disaster risk reduction, response, rehabilitation, and reconstruction, says its chief Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.

That money has gone toward the formation of local-level disaster management agencies, trained volunteer disaster responders and helped create a disaster management plan and map demarcating high-risk areas. BNPD has also provided reconstruction equipment and logistical assistance to the province.

Mr. Nugroho says the reason yesterday's quake did not cause widespread damage is because its epicenter was far away from the mainland, and residents immediately responded by leaving their homes and heading to safer locations.

One witness told local reporters that about 100 people had gathered on a bridge in the city to check if there was any change to the surface height of the river, an indicator of a possible tsunami. In 2004 the sea off the coast of Aceh rapidly retreated after the magnitude 9.1 quake, and a wall of water swept over the city.

Still hurdles

Not all efforts at disaster mitigation have met with success, however.

In October 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake and tsunami near the Mentawai Islands, west of Aceh, stirred criticism of the government’s attempts to install a widespread warning system after an expensive alert that comprised ocean buoys failed. Indonesian officials later said fishermen had tampered with the technology inside the buoys. 

The recovery effort following the 2004 disaster also took considerable time in Aceh, a fairly remote province, and the site of a 30-year conflict between Acehnese separatists and the Indonesian military at the time of the tsunami.

But by 2010 the UN Development Program issued a report praising the rebuilding effort, calling progress there “remarkable.”

The meteorologic agency, which routinely issues tsunami warnings for earthquakes above magnitude 7, lifted its tsunami alert two hours after the quake. Local officials say there have been no major reports of damage or injuries.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to 7.3 quake hits Indonesia again, but this time residents are better prepared
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today