Fired Up for International Disaster Exercises
Dessy Sagita & Antara
Indonesia is set to host key disaster-relief drills next week for delegates from Southeast Asia and other regions, an official announced on Wednesday.
Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), said North Sulawesi was selected to host the 2011 Asean Regional Forum Disaster Relief Exercise (Arf-Direx) due to its regular exposure to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and other hazards.
“A similar event was held in Manila but it wasn’t as comprehensive or complete as what we’ll have in North Sulawesi,” he said.
The six-day event, scheduled to begin on Monday, is expected to draw more than 3,500 civilian and military participants from 27 countries — including South Korea, Australia, Japan and the United States.
The event will showcase the latest helicopters, warships and other vessels used for emergency rescue.
Sutopo said participants would also be taught how to minimize casualties and launch effective relief distribution networks through live simulations of disaster situations.
He said one particular drill would involve responding to twin disasters — a magnitude 8.4 earthquake followed by a massive tsunami.
“We will follow every necessary step to mitigate the disaster efficiently, as if a real catastrophe had occurred,” Sutopo said. Aside from training, participants will also share their expertise and experience in handling calamities.
The urgent need for better disaster-response measures was highlighted last year when killer waves and a series of volcano eruptions hit parts of Indonesia.
A quake-triggered tsunami had battered the Mentawai Islands off the coast of West Sumatra on Oct. 25.
This was followed by the eruption of Mount Merapi in Central Java the next day.
According to the BNPB, one in three of Indonesia’s 73,000 villages are at high risk of being hit by natural calamities.
The United Nations has deemed Indonesia as one of the world’s most disaster-prone nations because of its archipelagic terrain and location within a volcanic belt called the “Pacific Ring of Fire.”
Sutopo said the country would likely face more disasters this year due to climate change.
Sudibyakto, an expert at Yogyakarta’s Gadjah Mada University, said the government urgently needed to fund disaster-preparedness programs, saying its thinking was flawed.
He criticized the state for failing to use the Rp 9 trillion disaster-relief fund for contingency plans and warning equipment.