An Earthquake a Day Recorded Throughout Past Year
Indonesia was hit by considerably fewer natural disasters in 2012 compared to last year, but the number of deaths and damage was substantial.
There were 1,200 disasters recorded this year, down from 1,663 in 2011. Still, they accounted for 487 deaths, while 667,000 people were displaced and injured. The toll on damaged houses was 33,847.
“There were 730 natural disaster incidents through the first week of December,” said National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) head Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, referring to the number that his agency counted. “If this data are combined with data from ministries and other institutions, I’d say it’s about 1,200 [which is down from last year]. The decline is strongly related to natural factors, such as the weather, environment, and geology.”
Sutopo said that 85 percent of the disasters was hydrometeorology disasters such as floods, landslides, droughts and whirlwinds.
He also noted a shift in the type of disasters that hit the country, saying that while floods topped the list of disasters from 2002 to 2011, this year it was mostly whirlwinds.
The number of whirlwinds in the 2002-11 period increased 28 times, and that affected 404 districts and cities inhabited by 115 million people. The whirlwind trend has become worrisome because of their unpredictability.
“Whirlwinds used to happen during the transition period from the rainy season to drought, but now they happen in almost all seasons,” Sutopo said. “They’re also spreading in cities and rural areas.”
Indonesia has yet to develop a technology to detect whirlwinds. BNPB has lightning censors in several stadiums, but they are ineffective in monitoring whirlwinds.
“For now, we can only call on the people to stay away from trees or billboards when it’s raining because most of the victims died after being hit by trees or billboards,” Sutopo said.
Sutopo predicted more whirlwinds to happen next year in line with the worsening global warming.
Indonesia was jolted by 365 earthquakes this year with eastern Indonesia areas experiencing the most tremors.
Sutopo said that most of the earthquakes measured between 5 and 5.5.
There were at least three strong earthquakes that hit Aceh and several other provinces in Sumatra in April that measured 8.3. One quake left 11 people dead, the result of stroke and heart attack.
Sutopo called on officials in eastern Indonesian areas to take extra precautions on earthquakes because they are living in areas where they are most vulnerable and are the least prepared.
He said that building quake-resistant houses could help minimize the number of deaths and injuries. Unfortunately, he said, people’s motivation to build quake-resistant houses remains low despite his frequent campaign to promote its importance.
Sutopo attributed higher construction costs as one of the reasons for the low public enthusiasm to build quake-resistant houses.
He added that Indonesia’s local customs originally included safety precautions, but they have been gradually abandoned over time.